Govt launches SMS facility to fight border trade challenges

Traders will now find it easy to raise their concerns about non-trade barriers that affect cross-border trade and regional integration after the Ministry of East African Community Affairs launched an SMS mobile information sharing platform to facilitate the process.
The new system will help traders report directly to government agencies the challenges they face continue to face while conducting cross-border business. The New Times / File
The new system will help traders report directly to government agencies the challenges they face continue to face while conducting cross-border business. The New Times / File

Traders will now find it easy to raise their concerns about non-trade barriers that affect cross-border trade and regional integration after the Ministry of East African Community Affairs launched an SMS mobile information sharing platform to facilitate the process.

According to the ministry, the facility will help stakeholders, especially the business community, in reporting all the challenges that affect cross-border trade, including delays, corruption, new taxes or Police roadblocks, and then get feedback from government bodies concerned.

Truck drivers, clearing agents welcome initiative


Theadore Murenzi, the chairman of the Rwanda Long Distance Truck Drivers Association, said this system will force border and customs officials to work hard, be accountable and responsible.

“The delays and other problems we have been experiencing at customs, including indifferent officials, will hopefully cease since we now have a platform where we can raise our views, and concerns,” Murenzi said after the facility was launched by the EAC ministry permanent secretary, Innocent Safari, at Gatuna border on Friday.

Fred Seka, the Clearing and Freight Forwarders boss, said elimination of trade barriers will enhance the country’s economic development.

He noted that the facility will ease the flow of right information between the business community and the authorities. This will ultimately improve on the way we have been conducting business, he added.

“We want to increase cross-border business by eliminating trade barriers which increase the cost of doing business. Therefore, engaging stakeholders through the SMS facility will make it possible,” Safari said while launching the system. 

Amili Mugarura, the boss of HeHe Limited, the company that developed the system, said the reports would go directly to respective focal points and will be responded to in about five minutes. These include the EAC ministry, Rwanda Revenue Authority, Private Sector Federation, Rwanda National Police, immigration department, Ministry of trade and industry and Rwanda Bureau of Standards.

A recent survey conducted in 19 countries in EAC, Comesa and SADC blocs on the real impact of NTBs on intra-regional trade established that, on average, 20 per cent of annual shipments faced some form of NTBs, which increased costs per shipment by $3,500. Also, companies spent approximately $145,000 per month on employees, time and accommodation due to NTBs and delays, according to the study.

Vincent Safari, the national co-ordinator in charge of non-trade barriers at Ministry of Trade and industry, said government supports the initiative because it will boost cross-border commerce, which contributes largely to the country’s economic development.

John Bosco Kalisa, the TradeMark East Africa programme manager, said any barriers that affect cross-border business are a big threat to the regional trade.

Therefore, reporting and eliminating them on time will boost regional trade, Kalisa said.

Charles Mugabe, border manager Katuna Uganda, promised to collaborate with Rwanda to ensure challenges faced by traders at the border are removed.

Emmanuel Butera, the Gatuna border post boss, said the facility will increase efficiency and reduce the time spent on handling customer inquiries.

Intra-EAC trade grew from $1,617.1m to $3,800.7m in 2010.

How the facility works


Messages are sent with a key word that shows the institution to which the SMS is addressed to toll free code number 25252 for local nationals and +250789252525 for those across the borders, and reply is received with in less than five minutes

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