EAC Partner States directed to support local production of essential medical products and supplies to combat COVID-19 in the region
East African Community Partner States have been directed to support local production of essential medical products and supplies including masks, sanitizers, soaps, processed food, ventilators as part of efforts to combat COVID-19 in the region.
A Joint consultative meeting of Partner States’ Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries responsible for Health, Trade, Transport and EAC Affairs via video conference held on 8th May, 2020 to discuss a regional approach to COVID-19 further directed Partner States to facilitate farmers to continue farming activities during this pandemic and post COVID-19 period.
The consultative meeting also directed Partner States to support agro-processing and value chains as an import substitution measure.
The Ministers requested the Ministries of Finance in the Partner States to establish special purpose financing schemes for small and medium enterprises, to cushion them from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministers gave these directives in response to information availed to them that that the region’s key productive sectors are already experiencing a slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with sectors such as agriculture, trade, manufacturing and industry, tourism, offline retail and catering being the worst affected.
Among the negative impacts on the regional economy are a food crisis in East Africa and severe disruptions in manufacturing and industry value chains. On the flipside are beneficial developments such as: increased production of face masks in the region; growing popularity of online retail using e-commerce platforms; growing popularity of online entertainment, and; increased Telecommuting and distance education.
The consultative meeting which was called by Hon. Dr. Vincent Biruta, the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta, discussed progress made on the facilitation of the free movement of goods and services in the region; assessment of state of play on cross border clearance of cargo and truck drivers at Malaba and Busia during the COVID 19 pandemic; Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the region’s productive capacities and Impact on Macroeconomic stability.
The Ministers commended the EAC Partner States, WHO and Africa CDC for the efforts being made towards addressing the COVID-19, and the steps taken to contain the disease and prevent further spread in the EAC region.
On a harmonized approach to testing services across Partner States, the Ministers urged Partner States to undertake standardised COVID-19 testing based on approved WHO methodologies
The Ministers/Cabinet Secretaries requested the Ministers of Finance to analyse the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fiscal and monetary sectors of the EAC region and recommend an appropriate plan of action.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sector, Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, informed the Ministers that the EAC Regional Task Force has finalised the EAC Regional COVID-19 Response Plan which aims to among other things, ensure a joint and well-coordinated mechanism to fight COVID-19 in the region; timely access to medical therapeutics and health technologies to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic in the region; as well as to minimize the number of people who become infected or sick with COVID-19.
The Ministers directed the Secretariat to submit the EAC Regional COVID-19 Response plan to the Partner States and urged the Partner States to submit their inputs on EAC Regional COVID-19 Response plan within one week from the date of submission of the document.
On the supply of COVID-19 test kits, equipment and other supplies to the Partner States, Hon Bazivamo informed the Ministers that EAC Secretariat through the EAC Network of Public Health Reference Laboratories for Communicable Diseases (Mobile Lab Project) had received a grant of €500,000 to support the strengthening of laboratory capacity for COVID-19 response in the Partner States.
Hon. Bazivamo told the meeting that the funds were intended to, among other things, purchase and supply adequate tests to facilitate scale-up of testing in East Africa (1,000 COVID-19 test kits per Partner State) and the supply of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in addition to those already procured under the Support to the Ebola response.
On the facilitation of the free movement of goods and services in the region, the meeting noted that the Partner States were experiencing challenges in facilitating movement of goods and services.
Consequently, the Ministers directed the EAC Secretariat in collaboration with Partner States to implement a sensitization programmme to destigmatize truck drivers and COVID-19 recoverees in the region.
They further directed the EAC Secretariat to coordinate the activities under the sensitization programmes in the Partner States.