After Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda commissioned the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS), Tanzania is also being engaged to join the system so as to further boost trade along the Kigali-Dar es Salaam route, officials confirm.
In Rwanda, establishment of the e-Cargo tracking system meant to reduce the cost of doing business by reducing transit time, enhancing cargo safety and helping traders better predict arrival of goods, was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through Trademark East Africa (TMEA) at a cost of $4.5 million (nearly Rwf3.7 billion).
Patience Mutesi, TMEA country director, says an engagement started with Tanzanian authorities to extend the system there as well.
“Since 80% of Rwanda’s exports and imports are routed through the Dar port, it is important for Rwandan traders that Tanzania gets on board the RECTS for cost and time gains which would come as a result of cargo safety and increased truck productivity along the Kigali-Dar route,” Mutesi said.
The system now connects Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda enabling them to jointly track transit cargo from port to destination on a 24-hour basis.
François Kanimba, the Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs, is optimistic that even though procuring the system is costly, TMEA “accepted to support Tanzania as has been done in other countries”.
The only problem would be, he observed, the fact that procuring the system takes time.
Kanimba said: “As regards implementation, in Tanzania, there will be no problem. It is already a member of the Single Customs Territory (SCT) and in principle they have agreed to implement all reforms which facilitate seamless movement of cargo within the single customs territory.
“But extending the e-Cargo system into the central corridor is a question of Tanzania quickly procuring the system like other countries have done.”
According to TMEA, transport delays and cargo theft are among the key concerns to importers and exporters who were forced to pay high insurance cover for goods on transit, but with improved security of cargo, importers can expect reduction in transit risk, leading to a decline in insurance premiums and ultimately reduction in transport costs.
How RECTS works
At the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) headquarters in Kigali there is now a Central Monitoring Centre (CMC), the watchtower of the newly installed e-Cargo tracking system. Inside the CMC, modern flat screens beam images of cargo trucks as they enter, transit and exit Rwanda. There is also a Google map with a tracker of Rwanda’s two main routes to and from the sea—the Northern and Central corridors—tracking the movement of trucks carrying Rwanda bound and transit cargo.
Officers manning the CMC rely on advanced technology to detect any illegal activity when a seal is tampered with or when a cargo truck deviates from geo-mapped route. The e-Seal is loaded with vital information such as the type of cargo the truck is carrying, driver’s details, truck details, container details, origin and the route it is supposed to travel to the final destination.
Any tampering with the electronic seal or deviation from the defined route automatically sends alerts to the CMC and the RRA Rapid Response Unit stationed at the nearest post is promptly alerted to take action.
During the recent commissioning of the system in Kigali, Richard Kamajugo, TMEA’s senior director for trade environment, emphasized that cargo transit management and administration is a critical component of cargo conveyance in the Eastern Africa transport corridors.
“How transit processes are managed and administered has a direct effect on the cost of doing business in the region, and the confidence that business entities have with the managers and administrators of cargo in transit,” Kamajugo said.
Challenges faced by transit cargo in the region have often included incidences where cargo is impounded by customs due to violation of transit regulations; traders complaining of losses due to cargo pilferage; or transporters accused for tampering with cargo in transit.
According to Kamajugo, all Customs authorities in the region identified that one way of addressing these challenges in transit management is to adopt the use of electronic and digital solutions to develop an effective transit management regime.
In 2014, the Head of States of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda, directed their respective Revenue Authorities to collaborate in developing a framework that would enable cross border cargo tracking to address challenges.
Kamajugo said: “The partnership that we have formed with RRA, URA and KRA in the implementation of this project clearly shows what this region can achieve if governments and their agencies put their best foot forward and the interests of East Africans first.”
“TMEA believes in partnership like the one demonstrated in the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System Project; this is the future of growing our region for sustainable and inclusive prosperity.”
According to Kamajugo, the benefits that will accrue from this intervention will result in a better business environment in the entire region. With an improved and more transparent system to track cargo from the port of entry to final destination; cargo diversions, pilferage, transit delays, and other transit challenges will become things of the past, he said.
As the system is rolled out, he explained, they expect transit times to reduce by up to 35%; the cost of managing and administering transit to go down by up to 15%; and that there will be more transparency, participation and visibility of cargo owners and other intermediaries in securing the movement of cargo in the corridor “with integrity and more accountability.