Uganda and Rwanda are set to join Kenya in relocating top customs officials to Mombasa Port in a new pact seeking to boost the flow of goods and curb dumping of cheap imports in East Africa. Under the deal struck by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Kenya has undertaken to create space for its partners to set up customs clearing units. “The presidents agreed to implement a programme for Uganda to collect customs duties before goods are released from Mombasa port. For goods destined for warehousing in Uganda importers would continue to execute the general bond security,” a communique issued after the Entebbe meeting said. However, this will be done after ongoing reforms at the port which include amending Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Act to recognise East African Community (EAC) as a single customs territory, space rationalisation and expansion of berths. The agreement reached on Tuesday will also see joint revenue teams being stationed at Oluhura and Mpondwe border points. The three leaders said they would monitor progress of the reforms which have strict timelines through a meeting every two months. Once fully implemented, the three countries will effectively be operating as a single customs territory ahead of the plan by EAC heads of states to extend it to the whole region - including Tanzania and Burundi - by November. Firms have argued that putting the revenue officials in one location will end trade diversion and reduce the disputes that have arisen out of products bilateral deals that member states sign with non-EAC states. For KPA, the changes will safeguard its dominance of regional transit cargo that has been under threat as more traders from landlocked states shunned inefficiency at Mombasa port and Northern Corridor. The deal is set to counter a similar trilateral agreement reached between Tanzania and the two landlocked countries to encourage use of the rival Port of Dar es Salaam and Central Corridor. The Tanzania’s Central Corridor is longer and in worse state of repair than Kenya’s northern corridor. However, Uganda has been offering its traders 15 per cent rebate to encourage the shift as they await the 800-kilometre railway line to be constructed jointly at a cost of Sh230 billion ($2.7 billion). The Mombasa Port now handles about 85 per cent of Uganda’s export and import cargo, down from 90 per cent in 2011. Rwanda which also used to transport 60 per cent of its cargo through Mombasa has also scaled down its use of the Kenyan facility three times. KPA data, however, shows Uganda remains the dominant transit destination accounting for 4.85 million tonnes or 73.1 per cent of its 2012 transit traffic. Rwanda recorded 260,238 or 3.9 per cent share of transit traffic in 2012. On Tuesday, the presidents said the new trilateral pact was part of their efforts to eliminate non-tariff barriers on trade and movement of labour that hamper intra-EAC trade and full implementation of the Common Market. The three leaders agreed to revamp the existing railway network and also construct new standard gauge railway line from Mombasa Kenya to Uganda and extend it to Rwanda. The new standard gauge railway line is particularly expected to ease pressure on the roads which currently haul 97 per cent of cargo, causing delays as countries enforce weight limits. To boost movement of persons the three presidents agreed to speed up the EAC electronic identity cards and single tourist visa.
Posted on: Thu, 27 Jun 2013 05:24:19 +0000
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