Low skills and little use of modern technologies are affecting the management of cargo flows in East Africa. Transport gurus say such problems account for over 40 per cent of business costs in the region.To tackle the problem, public and private sectors are raising skills, promoting good business practices and enhancing compliance.
The Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Association and the East African revenue authorities have established the East Africa Customs and Freight Forwarding Practising Certificate (EACFFPC). This has been done with a Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) support to increase efficiency.
For EACFFPC executive director John Mathenge, time has come to remove multiple non-tariff barriers: roadblocks, weighbridges and red tape. “There are limitations of infrastructure and personnel capacity, delays in clearing goods, high cost of freight logistics services and new focus to trade facilitation,” he told reporters in Arusha recently.
EA is among regions that have inordinately high transport costs in the world. These make the region unable to trade competitively in international markets. For example, many hours are taken to travel to and from the hinterland to landlocked countries. Poor infrastructure and delays in crossing borders are also frustrating importers and exporters.
TMEA one-stop border post director Theo Lyimo cites a centre at the Holili- Taveta border, which entails a faster clearance at border crossings.
The aim of one-stop border posts is to reduce transit costs incurred in cross-border movement, which is done by combining the activities of countries that share borders.
“TMEA seeks to identify ways of reinforcing border controls as an important component of the East African Community’s capacity to fight fraud, corruption and drug trafficking,” he says.
Trade Mark East Africa will spend $10 million on constructing Holili and Taveta border posts and other 13 border posts. The region has 24 border posts. Others will be constructed by the Japan International cooperation Agency and the World Bank.
“Time taken by vehicles at border posts will be reduced by 30 per cent and trade effectiveness in the East African Community will be enhanced,” he said.
According to studies by Trade Mark East Africa, implementation of the projects is expected to improve the performance of the Northern Corridor and Central Corridors, saving $1.9 billion in the annual transport cost by 2015.
Lyimo says it will take a long period for the EAC federation to be achieved. “The pace towards the federation is very slow. Even the European Union took over 50 years to reach where it is. Let’s improve infrastructure to speed up the process of regional integration.