Making Trade Green in Kenya & Beyond

Trade and economic growth impact the environment and societies involved either positively through increased incomes, livelihood, and capacity for improved environmental management or negatively through increased industrial pollution and degradation of the environment and natural resources. At the same time environmental hazards and climate change could negatively impact trade by disrupting supply, transport, and distribution chains which in turn increases costs, change trade patterns and weaken private sector competitiveness and local communities for local production and exports.

Weaving the three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social into the trade fabric guarantee realization of positive outcomes from trade. Such sustainable trade would ensure that an optimal balance is maintained between realising economic benefits and sharing them equally with stakeholders without destroying nature and biodiversity and safeguarding the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Trademark East Africa (TMA) champions sustainable trade in Eastern Africa and firmly believes that enhanced sustainable trade in the region will contribute to economic growth, reduced poverty, and increased prosperity. Our key result areas focus on contributing to efficiency and reducing transport costs and time, boosting intra and extra-regional exports, and creating decent jobs. As such, internationally agreed environmental and social sustainability standards are mainstreamed into all our programmes geared to realisation of these key result areas.

In terms of economic sustainability, we have supported reducing non-tariff barriers to trade and the optimization of process and IT for efficient transport and logistics. Environmental sustainability has been fostered through support in the greening of one stop border posts (OSBPs), development and implementation of green port policies and ISO/EMS systems at the ports; designing and greening trade logistics clusters/ eco-industrial parks making them bankable under sustainable and climate financing; and deployment of ICT systems at border crossing points to boost surveillance and anti-smuggling capacity of illegal environmental goods including wildlife and forest products. Social sustainability and gender inclusion go hand in hand with the interventions mentioned. In addition, we also support certain gender-targeted projects such as the Women in Trade Programme promoting an increase in the number of women cross border traders as well as their trade values and incomes.

Addressing sustainable socio-economic development hand in hand with climate change adaptation and mitigation has been found to be highly beneficial and synergistic. This is also a key emphasis in TMA given the widely recognized status of climate change as the greatest global environmental crises facing current and future generations and threatening sustainable development.

The Green House Audit Tool for Regional Corridors

In Eastern Africa, our economies are highly dependent on climate-sensitive natural resources and rain-fed agriculture which is highly vulnerable to Climate Change. At the same time, as our economies continue to grow rapidly, so do the respective transport and logistics sectors, and the accompanying Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and pollution. The increased traffic and pollution threaten the safety, health and life of road transport users and citizens. This is further compounded by inefficiencies that exist in the regions’ road transport and logistics sectors while water transport (maritime, inland lakes) and rail transport, which are the cheapest modes of freight transport, are underdeveloped and underutilised.

Apart from climate proofing our infrastructural projects we are also supporting the Green Freight Programme for Northern and Central Corridors on the development of a GHG methodology and inventory tool following the UNFCCC/ IPCC guidelines for the freight transport sector in collaboration with the Corridors Authorities, EAC Partner States and other international organisations. The methodology and tool will assist the Corridor countries in developing more detailed national, and transport and trade sector-specific climate policies, strategies, institutional arrangements and action plans to guide the implementation of financing, capacity building, technology development, monitoring and evaluation.

The GHG monitoring methods developed in TMA’s projects will also provide a credible source of information for the countries when preparing their international reporting or implementation of their climate strategies and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), under the Paris Agreement. Plans are underway for the development of a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system with more accuracy and responsiveness in designing actions to reduce GHG emissions and to build climate resilience in the transport and trade sectors.

The coming into force of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to boost sustainable development by easing the cross-border movement of regional value chains through infrastructure projects and large-scale implementation of advanced Green technologies. This will not only reduce costs, boost trade and generate incomes and wealth but also enable a smooth and sustained flow of basic goods and services even amid peak stress from environmental crises, natural disasters and human conflicts induced by food insecurity.

An added impetus is that markets are increasingly demanding locally produced Green low-carbon products in line with the customer attitudes, preferences, and consumption in those markets. Thus, to remain competitive, TMA will support countries in Eastern Africa to reduce the ecological and carbon footprint of its products and diversify more into green/ environmental goods and services.

Incorporating Sustainability to National Policies

Globally, public awareness of what governments, private sector, donors and individuals need to do to safeguard the environment and society is growing. A lot of progress has been realised to date but there is still room for everyone to do more. We in TMA support governments to ensure environmental and social considerations are incorporated in policies, legislation, regulations, incentives and supportive institutions to encourage and enable the private sector’s green and sustainable development efforts. By working together, the public, private and non-state actors can play a big role in catalyzing green initiatives and projects across different sectors in the region and have a transformational impact nationally and regionally. Further, as individuals, we can use our voice to advocate for sustainable growth approaches by all stakeholders in ensuring environmental sustainability, reduced inequalities, and enhanced climate resilience for a better future.

We in TMA are playing our part by convening with national authorities, institutions, private sector and international donors, to improve the well-being of the environment and society in all of our work. We have planned a Green Corridors Programme for the region aimed at contributing towards low-carbon and climate-resilient trade. Additionally, in line with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we also launched a Safe Trade Emergency Facility (STEF) alongside this programme to urgently support East and Horn of Africa to make ports, borders and critical supply chains safe to trade. This will also support the region in adopting green recovery approaches post-COVID-19.
As we get used to the “new normal” we must always remember that the planet’s health is strongly linked to our health making it necessary to place sustainability principles at the heart of all decision making even as countries undergo their economic recovery. We fully support and advocate for recovery efforts achieved by boosting green trade in the region. The question is, will you join us?

Dennis Maina, Environment& Climate Change Expert at TradeMark Africa