Technical experts from Rwanda and Uganda attending a two-day meeting discussing the elimination of all the trade barriers hindering transporters have recommended the launch of 24-hour operations at Cyanika and Mirama Hills/Kagitumba borders.
Cyanika border post presently operates 16 hours while Kagitumba is operational for 12 hours, which traders who normally trade between the two countries and the region at large claim hinders their business.
Reports indicate that unlike the 24-hour Gatuna border post, Cyanika and Kagitumba have been distressing transporters who have been compelled to wait until the post is open in the morning.
According to Kaliza Karuretwa, the Director General of Trade and Investment in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, who led the Rwandan delegation, the move would benefit traders as they would no longer have to wait overnight at the borders.
“The Kabale meeting will set the stage to the upcoming Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) by putting trade at the centre of the agenda of our bilateral cooperation with the aim of increasing trade flows between the two countries,” she said.
Janet Nkubana, an exporter and chairperson of the Rwandan Exporters Association, welcomed the move saying that it would enable Rwandan traders compete with their regional counterparts.
“It will be great. We are going to work extra hard, especially in competing with other regional traders,” she observed.
This comes at the backdrop of traders’ recent drive to have the Rwanda Revenue Authority increase border thresholds for clearance to at least Rwf 2 million at the Cyanika, Gatuna and Kagitumba borders. At the said border posts, they say imports worth more than Rwf 1 million can only be cleared in Kigali, or with special permission from the Commissioner General of RRA, which traders find time-consuming.
In other recommendations, participants suggested that a certificate of origin should be availed at all Uganda border posts by 31st March, 2012 to facilitate traders normally purchasing products near the borders.
A recent report by a team of experts that showed certificates are only provided by the Rwandan side, unlike in Uganda where they are only available in Kampala, thus affecting traders who purchase goods around the borders, especially at Kisoro, Kabale and other points of entry.
The meeting developed and agreed on a draft memoranda of understanding between the two countries on Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs), Cross Border Trade development, promotion of SMEs and cooperatives development that will be signed by the two Ministers responsible for trade in the upcoming JPC meeting in Kampala on 25thJanuary 2012.
It also agreed to put in place joint technical committees to monitor progress in the implementation of the MOUs and report the challenges encountered.
However, the decision for the opening of 24-hour border operations will be taken by both customs and revenue authorities.
Efforts to get a comment from Rwanda Revenue Authority were futile as concerned officials could not pick up calls.