Real integration of the East African Community is still being slowed by member states failure to eliminate Non-Tariff Barriers to encourage free trade across their borders.
The President of the Rwandan Heavy Transporters Association (RHTA) has revealed that despite several surveys conducted along the Northern Corridor aimed at reducing the cost of doing business by removing NTBs, the situation has not improved.
The Northern Corridor the major route through which Rwanda’s imports pass, stretches from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Kigali through Uganda.
“They have failed. They haven’t done anything. Police stop you for two hours when you have all the documents and we have to pay them to avoid delaying,” Emmanuel Nshimiyimana lamented.
The issue of NTBs was also raised by President Paul Kagame during the first East African Business Forum that took place in Kigali last year, where he said that these barriers had to be dealt with in order to reduce the cost of doing business in the region.
Nshimiyimana disclosed that the impediments were rampant at some points in Uganda and Kenya, adding that they also encounter the same problems along the Central Corridor.
The Central Corridor stretches from the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam to Kigali.
He said that in some places security needs to be beefed up because of rampant ambushes by robbers.
“Thieves are stealing from us and shoot at us. Some trucks fall and are robbed. For example in Murunguru (in Tanzania) where there is a weighbridge and a forest where robbers ambush us,” he said.
A survey done by the Seamless Transport Committee established in place in 2005 to identify NTBs along the Northern Corridor found that besides corruption and insecurity along the corridor, the numerous weighbridges were unnecessary and needed to be reduced.
According to the findings of the survey there were 24 police checks, 14 road blocks and 13 weighbridges.
However, following the Kigali Business Forum, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki announced that the unnecessary weighbridges and road blocks would be removed to ensure that transportation of goods to the hinterland is not delayed.
“They were not removed for example in Uganda we are stopped at Lukaya and then at Mbarara weighbridges. Sometimes they get different measurements so that we pay more,” he said.
Emmanuel Hategeka, the Chief Executive Officer of Private Sector Federation (PSF), reiterated: “The situation hasn’t changed much but we are engaging various authorities.”
Nsyimiyimana also cited the ongoing maintenance work on some roads within the corridor and poor road networks as another barrier to doing business in East Africa.