East Africa turns to tech to curb $6 billion illicit trade


DAR ES SALAAM – East Africa is reportedly expected to adopt a track-and-trace system to streamline cross-border trade and help stem nearly US$6 billion in annual losses resulting from illicit trade.

The plan, which was announced in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday by the East African Business Council (EABC), would also help to improve health and boost collection of government revenue across the region.

EABC Executive Director, John Bosco Kalisa, revealed the plan during a regional workshop for stakeholders, as reported by the Citizen.

“We plan to start as soon as possible. Digital tax stamps and electronic cargo tracking systems are among digital technologies governments have rolled out with a view to tracking trade within the East African Community region.

“However, these technologies are more focused on authentication and tax verification solutions rather than tracking and tracing,” Kalisa said.

He said the EABC was also urging governments in the region to reduce costs associated with Digital Tax Stamps (DTS) to enhance revenue collection and facilitate business operations.

“Tanzania’s recent reduction associated with DTS is appreciated. Similar measures are needed in other EAC member states. For instance, it costs US$25.72 per 1,000 stamps in Kenya for tobacco products and this warrants a deeper regional system review,” Kalisa noted.

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Meanwhile, Industry and Trade Deputy Minister, Exaud Kigahe, said it was time the East African Community bloc considered the adoption of a common regional and interoperable track-and-trace solution to enable cross-border sharing of relevant data to stop illicit trade.

Kigahe commended the EABC and EAC for organising discussions on ways of combating illicit trade, noting that the workshop came at the right time when many countries worldwide are implementing various measures to curb illicit trade.

“According to a report by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), illicit trade accounts for approximately 3.3 percent of global trade.

This represents a significant economic loss for governments and legitimate businesses,” he said.

And East African Competition Authority deputy registrar (Monopolies and Cartels), Stellah Onyancha, called for collective efforts by governments, businesses and consumers in fighting illicit trade and promoting fair competition in East Africa.

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