Rwanda Revenue Authority has promised that its customs’ points which have been closing at 18h00 will be operating till 22h00 by the end of this year. The deputy commissioner general stated two days ago that doing this will be the body’s response to the growing business within the country. Currently doing cross border business in most of the East African region is not all that smooth because of the limited number of hours in which it is possible. Customs and immigration staff at Gatuna border post for example open offices at 06h00 and close only twelve hours later. Usually a 30 minute extension may be added, either side, depending on the intensity of business flow from Uganda or the other way round.
But this flexibility is an initiative outside the stipulated time, agreed upon between the Rwandan and Ugandan officials in the spirit of making it as convenient as they can, to business people and passengers.
This closed schedule is a far cry from the open-ended arrangement at both Malaba and Busia border posts of eastern Uganda-western Kenya. Here operations have for sometime now been on 24-hour basis.
Indeed this is a welcome development which should see passenger and cargo transport businesses grow further. As things stand now, buses which say leave Kampala for Burundi via Kigali at midnight arrive at Gatuna at 04h00 and passengers cannot be cleared before 07h00. These three hours of doing nothing but waiting for the morning are both a wastage and an inconvenience.
It is understandable that at the start it will be only four hours added because more time has to be dictated by more business. No one wants to open for the sake of it and so time to monitor growth has to be allowed.
Perhaps what should start along with closing at 22h00 is opening at 05h00 so as to make a difference at both the starting and ending.
The good thing here is that the revenue, immigration and security organs, all involved in the change, will be dealing with counterparts in Uganda who are already in the habit.
This means that no time will be spent while working to convince anyone since the principle is appreciated and practiced the other side.
Because half the work is already done, time will be spent simply on harmonizing the inter-border operations for mutual benefit.