Rwandan and Tanzanian private sector bodies on Monday reiterated their commitment to collaborate in advocating for elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) between the two countries.
Restrictions that result from prohibitions, conditions, or specific market requirements that make importation or exportation of products difficult and or costly continue to trouble business people from both countries and, this was high on agenda of a one-day peer to peer meeting held in Kigali.
“Unlike politicians, business people don’t have term limits or constituencies. All that is important is a good doing business environment; and that is what we all desire. We must continuously collaborate, or regularly share views on how best we can collaborate to further make things better,” Stephen Ruzibiza, the PSF chief executive, said.
A 15-man delegation represented the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) at the meeting whose objectives included identifying policy and regulatory restrictions that undermine free movement of goods, services, capital and investment between the two countries, besides identifying reasonable response measures.
This Rwanda-Tanzania peer to peer meeting is, among others, expected to increase private sector engagement in the bilateral framework to deal with issues pertinent to doing business.
Participants said unresolved NTBs and non-conforming measures or regulations which violate certain articles of investment agreement – faced by Tanzanian companies in Rwanda include the requirement from Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) to pay US$200 deposit at the border by transporters from Tanzania.
Others are hurdles in registering a clearing and forwarding (C&F) company in Rwanda and obtaining the related license from RRA.
Rwandan business folks in Tanzania also point out concerns over a work permit requirement for clearing and forwarding agents’ staff to work in Tanzania which is reportedly limiting them when it comes to setting up offices in Dar es Salaam.
Clearing and forwarding agents from Rwanda are not allowed to access the port premises without work permits.
Other issues raised by Rwandans ranged from theft of minerals from Rwanda at Dar es Salaam port, to Fuso truck drivers being denied entrance to Tanzania to buy local agriculture products such as rice, bananas, dried cassava, and beans.
Only Tanzania registered trucks are said to be allowed to carry these products and offload them at the Rusumo border post in Rwanda.
This, it is noted, requires additional time and documentation which is a cumbersome procedure and a waste of time.
Gili Teri, the TPSF Director of Policy, Research and Lobbying, said there are “joint challenges” too, including non-harmonised road user charges or road tolls.
“This brings about a difference in charges when transporting to different regions hence varying costs,” Teri said, also noting that there are numerous monetary charges required by various agencies in the EAC Partner States for exports of milk and other dairy products.
Further still, Teri said, border management institutions’ working hours are not harmonised and this is costly to business.
Shedding light on how difficult it is to move goods across the border, Badal Gurung, the logistics manager of Mount Meru Petroleum-Rwanda, first pointed to the problem of depot closing time as well as issues of documentation in Tanzania which hampers their business.
“On normal working days they close depots at 4:30 pm and this, really, is too early. Please consider helping to have this time increased. On Saturday, it is 11:30am,” Gurung said, adding that the border closing time of 10pm is also “a big issue” as it delays their operations.
Participants from both ends however agreed to work persistently to push policy makers in their respective capitals to find solutions.
The expectation of their bilateral engagements is to unlock the existing and future trade potential between Rwanda and Tanzania.
Robert Opirah, the Director-General for Trade and Investment in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs, told the meeting that the two countries are important trading partners with a firm commitment to increasing trade and cooperation through their joint membership of the EAC.
Opirah said Tanzania is Rwanda’s third largest trading partner – behind Uganda and Kenya – with total trade between the two countries accounting for 14 perc ent of Rwanda’s trade with EAC.
Rwanda and Tanzania recently launched a new Rusumo International bridge and a One-Stop-Border Post.
Working hours at the border of Rusumo were extended from 12 to 16 hours and at the port to 24 hours and there is hope the Rusumo border will in the future operate for 24 hours too. Introduction of an Electronic Cargo tracking system has also meant less transit checkpoints.
Opirah assured participants of Rwanda’s “unwavering commitment to seeking practical ways” of completely eliminating NTBs in order to facilitate easier trade across borders and the region.