Traders yet to embrace SMS to cut regional trade barriers

Friday April 24 2015



Ugandan traders are yet to embrace an information exchange system to report Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) via text message (SMS) on their mobile phones eight months after it was unveiled.

Ms Khadija Nakakande, the spokesperson at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives told Daily Monitor that traders are still using paper-based or face-to-face communication with the ministry officials in resolving NTB’s because of low promotional campaigns.

“The use of text messages service (SMS) in reporting NTB’s has been very slow because of the delay in the implementation of a communication strategy especially in the media.
We have just come up with media messages which we are possibly going to start running by the end of this month in all the media platforms to popularise the new system,” Ms Nakakande said.

Ms Nakakande said the ministry has received about 100 complaints since the system was unveiled in August last year, with almost half of them mainly from traders testing the system.

Uganda’s move to develop the platform- set to be expanded into other East African States -aimed at replacing the manual system where traders or importers recorded NTB’s manually on paper at border points and delay to resolve the matter.
With the new system, a person experiencing a barrier sends an SMS to code 201, at a cost of Shs150.


According to the latest EAC report released in September last year, Kenya has the highest number of NTBs at 12, followed closely by Tanzania at 11. Uganda and Rwanda have two NTBs each whereas Burundi has one. Further, the report shows that although 59 NTBs had been cumulatively resolved, 22 remain unresolved while eight new ones have been reported as of September, 2014.

Uganda developed the new reporting system as countries in the East African Community are working on removing NTBs to allow free movement of people, labour and capital.

Intra-regional trade
Trade revenue in EAC. According to the EAC Secretariat, Intra-EAC trade has increased from $1.6 billion (Shs4.8 trillion) in 2006 to $3.8 billion (Shs11 trillion) in 2012 and $4.5 billion (Shs13.5 trillion) in 2013.