The East Africa Business Council wants countries which have not joined the regional electronic cargo tracking system (RECTS) project to do so sooner than later as the latter is considered to be effective in safety of goods while in transit.
Urging Tanzania and Burundi to join Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya in embracing a harmonized electronic cargo tracking system, the apex body of business associations of the Private Sector and Corporates from EAC partner states, is emphasizing that the system reduces the cost of doing business.
The EABC Executive Director Lilian Awinja has reiterated that RECTS is, among others, “a very good idea that is reducing diversion and theft of transit cargo.”
“Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda are already on board, and this is something we appreciate because it adds value to the Single Customs Territory (SCT),” Awinja said, adding that the EABC needs the revenue authorities in the two other countries to “take up the cost of that gadget because it is in their best interest to have these gadgets on the trucks.”
“What we need is to see Tanzania and Burundi join the regional cargo tracking system. The revenue authorities should support this whole process and make sure that they own it and we work together as a region, so that it is implemented uniformly across all partner states. We are supposed to work together. We are in a Customs Union.”
Rwanda launched the e-Cargo tracking system which is 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). Launched seven months ago, it lessens transit time, enhances cargo safety and helps traders better predict arrival of goods.
It enables transporters and revenue authorities in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda to jointly track transit cargo from port to destination on a 24-hour basis.
Robert Mugabe, the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) deputy commissioner for revenue investigation and enforcement, said: “We are not selling them; we haven’t at all thought about charging a fee for these gadgets. Why would we charge when we want to generate public awareness?”
In the three countries the e-seal is distributed generously, or at very little cost, to companies.
Issa Mugarura, vice-president of Rwanda Truck Drivers Association (ACPLRWA), said he is happy because cases and avenues of cargo theft are no more.
In Rwanda there is no charge for an e-seal. Patience Mutesi, TMEA country director, explained that this is because it is funded by a development organisation through the Government.
“The cost to the private sector players is lower than it is when funded as a profitable venture because, to the Government, it is a trade facilitation tool and not one meant to make money,” Mutesi said.
According to Awinja, in Tanzania and Burundi which are not part of the RECTS, “businesses have to install by themselves for purchasing individually” and the cost of an e-seal is goes up to approximately $1,200.
Awinja said: “Companies there that want to do e-cargo tracking buy and it is not mandatory. They are not part of the [harmonised] regional electronic cargo tracking system. Any company in Tanzania and Burundi that wants to do electronic cargo tracking buy their own gadgets. The cost is high and not everybody may be able to afford.”
She said the matter has been discussed with revenue authorities and policy makers in the respective governments as well as documented it in the EABC advocacy agenda 2016 and now 2017.
“And we gave them documents that contain key recommendations even on this Electronic Cargo Tracking System. We are giving these recommendations to revenue authorities, to policy makers and telling them this is the direction we want to go.”
Asked about the matter, Ali Idi Siwa, Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Rwanda, noted that he is of the view that there usually are national decisions whereas others are regional decisions.
Siwa said: “This is a regional issue and as such, I believe, soon or later Tanzania will join the regional electronic cargo tracking system.”
But Awinja insists that “for us business people, we need it done today.”
Awinja said: “They should just join. Why wait for five years?”
Edith Nsaija Mwanje, the Permanent Secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of the EAC affairs sounded optimistic about having all countries on board but could not be precise on when.
“At the regional level, there are arrangements whereby we want everybody to introduce the electronic cargo tracking system. It has a lot of value, and it is in the interest of those countries to make sure that they get on board because the tracking system makes it possible for revenue authorities to track cargo,” Mwanje said.
She did not state exactly when but she emphasized that each of the two countries have a specified period of time in which they plan to start using the RECTS.
“Each country has given itself a timeframe and they have not gone beyond it. So, we are not yet worried, because if I said I am getting on board in December and it is not yet December, you don’t have to worry about that,” Mwanje said, adding: “The advantages accrue to the country and they are going to get onboard for sure.”
When the system was launched in March, TMEA officials said that in the past, transporters lost $200-$250 each day a truck spent in transit while the cost of transport tended to increase for cargo destined further inland, such as to Rwanda.