Harmonisation of border procedures to spur trade
Operations of all agencies working at border posts should be harmonised if the East African countries are to easily facilitate movement of goods and persons at their borders, Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) has said.
TMEA is a multi-donor funded agency that provides support for increased regional trade and economic integration in East Africa.
Some of the state agencies normally based at border posts include immigration, revenue authorities, police, and standards agencies, among others.
The agencies apparently operate independently thereby causing delays at the borders as traders have to pass through all of them to process documents.
It takes a trader importing goods from the EAC member countries an average of 30 minutes to process documents, at the Gatuna/Katuna border.
“These agencies should not be working independently. They need to collaborate on planning, monitoring, organisation and other related activities to ease the movement of traders,” Theo Lyimo, TMEA’s director of Integrated Border Management and One Stop Border Post advised in an exclusive interview with The New Times.
This was at the sidelines of a one-day workshop on the establishment of the Integrated Border Management Concept and presentation on the final design of Kagitumba One Stop Border Post facilities.
The workshop, which was organised by Trade Mark East Africa, in collaboration with Rwanda Revenue Authority, attracted different participants drawn from different agencies from Uganda Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda.
According to Lyimo, the agencies should have one system to ease the processing of documents to realise the success of the integration process.
“Integrated border management should have a system controlling all the agencies at the borders and this will help to eliminate all trade challenges affecting the region including high prices of products, high costs of transport and others,” he noted.
He cited the Chirundu Integrated border management between Zambia and Zimbabwe which he said had totally cleared trade barriers between the two countries.
However, though the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) had been introduced at some borders of the EAC member countries, they are yet to yield the expected results as traders still encounter some challenges.
Richard Tusabe, the deputy commissioner general of Rwandan Revenue Authority and also in charge of customs services, observed that regional countries still grappled with the problem of trade barriers at the borders of Nemba (Rwanda-Burundi) and Gatuna (Rwanda-Uganda), which have operational One Stop Border Posts.
He, however, said that the introduction of Integrated Border Management would help increase the volume of business among partner states.
“The establishment of Integrated Border Management has been recognised as one of the ten building blocks of Customs in the 21st Century, a new strategic perspective and policy agreed upon by heads of the world’s customs administrations to shape the role of Customs in the current century, a century with unique demands.
“The establishment of Integrated Border Management and the implementation of OSBP will minimise the delays at our borders, hence improving service delivery. This will also improve Rwanda’s ranking and reduce the cost of imported goods,” Tusabe said.
He urged all partners involved to demonstrate the commitment to reduce the cost of cross-border trade making importers and exporters more competitive in the region.
“Better border management entails coordination and cooperation among all the relevant authorities and agencies involved in border regulatory requirements,” said Tusabe.
Jane Nkubana, chairman of the exporters association, welcomed the border management saying that traders have always been affected by delays at the border posts leading to an increase in the cost of goods.
“Delays at the borders are some of the non tariff barriers affecting us in the region, and I think if the operations of agencies are harmonised, this would reduce on the time we spend clearing goods at the borders.”
She mentioned that would also reduce graft at border posts in the region.
Negotiations on the roadmap to harmonise the operations of agencies are expected to end this year, according to officials from the Rwanda Revenue Authority.
Transport costs in East Africa are regarded amongst the highest in the world damaging the region’s ability to trade competitively in the international market, according to economic experts.
Contact email: eric.kabeera[at]newtimes.co.rw