When in 2013 the Presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda met in Nairobi and agreed to implement the Single Customs Territory (SCT) on the Northern Corridor, one would have thought that by now it would be smooth sailing.
But, according to members of the East African Business Council (EABC), that is far from the case. Transporters who ply both the Northern and Central corridors say that each route has its own challenges.
Rwandan clearing agents have no direct access to the ports of Dar and Mombasa, they are required to operate through Kenyan and Tanzanian agents, which is in full violation of the SCT.
But the most worrying factor is that some countries have up to this day failed to harmonise their rules with those of the East African Community (EAC) creating unnecessary conflict.
Non implementation of resolutions, such as the removal of multiple weighbridges and police and customs checkpoints, is another headache that makes doing business in the region a costly undertaking.
This has been one of the major complaints affecting businesses, without mentioning corruption and theft of goods, both at the ports and in transit.
There is a saying that ‘old habits die hard’, but how hard is it to remove all unnecessary roadblocks? Corruption could be a hard nut to crack all together as it has many opportunities to exploit; block one loophole and another appears. So, only concerted efforts and political will can effectively deal with it.
Otherwise, at the end of the day, if the status quo remains, it will be the ordinary east Africans who will be on the losing end as the slogan of “people-centred’ regional integration will remain meaningless.