The novel COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across East Africa with Malawi and South Sudan announcing their first cases of the disease within their borders.

As the situation becomes more precarious, some new measures have been taken by governments which may impact the movement of people and goods. These measures include:

REGIONAL COVID-19 RESPONSE

Kenya

This is the most affected country in East Africa with the highest number of cases and fatalities. From 6th April, the government banned the movement of people in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan area including surrounding areas as Thika, Kiambu, Rongai, Ngong, Kitengela and Athi River.

Movement within these areas is permitted subject to the existing night-time curfew effective between 7 pm and 5 am.

These areas have been cut off from the rest of the country as all the COVID-19 cases are localized in these locations. From an agricultural and food perspective, the Ministry of Agriculture has general county guidelines for managing food supply chains. The guidelines target farmers, traders, market vendors, and transporters of food produce.

Uganda

No new measures have been introduced within the past week. A two-week lockdown in all urban centers introduced earlier is still effective. Essential services such as markets, facilities, factories, and plantations remain open for business but are expected to operate following standard operating procedures published by the Ministry of Health.

Cross border trade in goods is still permissible provided trucks and other cargo vehicles do not carry crews of more than 3 people.

Tanzania

No new measures announced in the past week. The mandatory quarantine of persons arriving in the country is the main control system. The government is also encouraging social distancing and improved personal hygiene. There’s no restriction of movement of people.

From a trade perspective, cross-border trade in goods continues, subject to screening measures for the truck crews.

Rwanda

The government of Rwanda has extended the lockdown for another 2 weeks until the 19th of April. It is the only country in East Africa that has put in place a government-run social protection plan to deliver food to 20,000 vulnerable households.

This is a very positive measure that improves the effectiveness of a lockdown while protecting the food security of the people who are poor but stay in urban areas as they only rely on a daily wage for their sustenance.

South Sudan

No new measures announced in the country. Existing measures include the closure of Juba International Airport except for emergency or cargo flights and border restrictions except for cargo vehicles

Burundi

Burundi reported its first COVID-19 case last week. The government has put in place measures for quarantining and screening of travelers arriving in the country. Shops, offices, and bus terminals have been instructed to put up handwashing facilities. From a trade perspective, no major disruptions have been reported.

UPDATE ON CROSS BORDER TRADE SITUATION

Kenya-Uganda border

Significant improvements have been reported in Malaba and Busia borders. Long truck queues which at one point reached 26km have been cleared. The Kenyan government put up measures to ensure that the borders operate 24hours, up from the previous 14 hours because of the night-time curfew. This has drastically improved the food supply from Uganda to Kenya.

Kenya-Tanzania border

There is some slight improvement at the Namanga border, with some slight delays reported. Clearing times have now reduced to an average of 2-3 days compared to the previous 5 days clearing time. Working hours of customs from the Kenyan side of the border has been extended by 1 hour to 8 pm form 7 pm because of the curfew in Kenya. Trucks entering Kenya are being escorted by the police.

Tanzania border with Rwanda and Burundi

There are no major challenges experienced at Rusumo(Tanzania-Rwanda border) and Kabanga-Kobero(Tanzania-Burundi border). While COVID-19 screenings have somewhat increased time spent at the border, this has been neglected by low cargo traffic to these countries caused by typical season patterns and low cargo volumes. This net effect is a relatively smooth cross-border trade experience at the moment.

MARKET DEVELOPMENT FOR COMMODITIES

The market for staple foods such as maize and beans are moving seasonably as they are mostly stable. the harvest of stocks for regions harvesting in the first quarter of the year was already complete by the time the first cases of the disease appeared in East Africa, meaning that food supply has not been disrupted.

The prices have gone higher than 12 months ago. The Kenyan government has authorized the importation of 90kg of bags o maize before May.