KAMPALA - Border posts of East African states should operate 24 hours to help spur sustainable development in the region, President Paul Kagame has said. Kagame, who was speaking last evening at the ongoing Commonwealth Business Forum held in Kampala, Uganda, said that such unlimited operation can be achieved by employing talented and accountable officers to man the posts. The President decried the long delays encountered by transporters between the coast and inland markets.
“A lorry of commercial goods traveling inland to coastal gateways can take anywhere from five days to two weeks depending on “good luck”…. the reverse travel from the coast to inland markets is equally problematic, not least given the onerous clearances and checks required for imported products,” he said.
“We must use ICT to make border clearances a rapid one-stop-shop exercise…
intra-regional trade as well as improved access to global markets will undoubtedly provide a launching pad for our economic takeoff,” Kagame told government and business leaders.
The Forum was hosted by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
In his speech titled ‘Critical Steps Towards a Competitive East Africa’, Kagame said that infrastructural development was equally vital to enhance coast-inland accessibility.
He cited some of the problems encountered along the routes as legal border crossings with most of them closed at night, ad hoc and illegal checkpoints, impassable sections of the road network, and congested port facilities.
Noting that the region has talent and professionals, the President spoke of the need for African authorities to prevent braindrain by putting in place mechanisms that encourage African professionals to work home.
“We in Rwanda are facilitating this by removing work permits and employment restrictions on professionals and others to work in our country,” he said, adding that the decision is also in the spirit of the East African common market “that will formalise free movement of goods, services and people.”
“We want to become home to entrepreneurs who transform agricultural produce into commercially viable goods; who develop tourism into dynamic clusters that generate wealth….who utilise ICT to create export-oriented service industries,” he told participants.
Kagame who is also expected to attend the high level Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala later this week thanked the Forum, for bringing together business and government leaders, to explore ways of making East Africa competitive in the commonwealth and global contexts.