Over the past few years, there were a lot of complaints from traders about the high cost of doing business in East Africa, which made the region less attractive to investors.
So, to improve the business environment in the region, the five East African Community (EAC) member countries agreed to work together and boost economic ties, as well as put in place facilities to reduce the cost of trade in the region.
Among the many initiatives implemented is the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) concept, which has boosted trade facilitation across borders by harmonising border control regulations and procedures and, thus, enabling expeditious and more effective border control mechanisms.
The initiative has also reduced the number of stops by consignments at border posts and other transactions by combining border control activities at a single location. This means that there are no repetitions of clearing procedures.
Such projects by the EAC countries (Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi) have been implemented successfully by employing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to ease the sharing of data that is useful in border control operations.
The OSBP at Gatuna border post was launched in 2010, with the 24-hour operation of customs officials and other border agencies. This not only helped businesses in Rwanda to transact business across borders at all times of day and night, but also helped reduce the time spent during the process of clearing goods at the border. For example, it used to take three hours to clear one single traveller’s bus or trucks at either side, but now it takes between 20 and 30 minutes to clear a similar consignment. For small-scale traders, who deal in goods that qualify under the simplified trade regime, it takes about 10 minutes to clear such items.
The implementation of OSBP has seen the five EAC member countries conducting joint technical training of border control officers to ensure common levels of understanding of the one stop border post operations.
The recently launched single customs territory, where traders are cleared once at the first point of entry marked an important milestone in the history of trade facilitation in the East African Community. Also, the impending deal between Rwanda and Burundi on the establishment of a one stop border post at Gasenyi 1/Nemba border post will be a huge boost to business facilitation in the region. As time goes on, trade barriers within the region will be eradicated to further improve the business climate in the EAC.
The writer works with Rwanda Revenue Authority Communications Department