Big Regional Trade Boost

Historically, exporting finished products and importing raw materials has always been a terrible hustle for local manufactures which import raw materials and export finished products. The whole process includes the preparation and submission of numerous documents to different authorities to comply with import, export and transit regulatory requirements on either side of the borders. These endless requirements, together with their attendant costs in terms of time and resources, have always been big hurdle for private sector players.

However thanks to the various projects including the Electronic Single Window (ESW) currently being implemented by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), manufacturers can simultaneously submit the required trade information including customs declarations applications for import and export permits certificates of origin and trading invoices, through a single online portalwindow. This has resulted into a 30% reduction in transaction costs and time associated with processing documentation for selected imports and exports at key trade regulatory agencies in Uganda. But the ESW is only one of the successful projects that have had a tremendous impact on trade in the EAC.

Others, such as the One Border Post, have meant a reduction in clearance time through the Uganda Revenue Authority ASYCUDA World system, which has been slashed by 30 hours. The average time to clear goods at Mombasa port and transport them to Kampala has also come down to just four days, while the number of customs declarations has gone down by 90% leading to an increase in trade volumes. For example, as a direct consequence of the projects, fuel imports into Uganda have skyrocketed from 32.1million litres before to 108 million litres currently.

At the launch of TMEA’s annual report in Kampala late last month, government and the private sector were full of praise for TMEA’s vision of enhancing interconnectedness in the region through trade through various projects, which also include the recent signing of the Mombasa Port Community Charter. Indeed, Frank Matsaert, the TMEA chief executive officer, said the results presented in the report point to an ever improving trade environment, which is expected to spur investments and ultimately benefit the citizens of East Africa.

Tangible investments by TMEA, a donor-funded organization formed to help regional states speed up integration, in trade infrastructure as well as the removal of at least ten bureaucratic and procedural barriers to economic integration are seen positing the East African region as the destination of choice for doing business by the various investors across the globe.

They include the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) between Burundi and Tanzania and the Mombasa Port Development programme. Another One Stop Border Post has also been implemented in Uganda at the Kagitumba border post in Rwanda. In Rwanda and Uganda, TMEA is also supporting informal cross border trade, which is mainly done by women.

Encouraging results achieved over the year include reduced cargo transit times on East Africa’s main transport corridors, and accelerated implementation of the EAC’s Single Customs Territory.

“The results presented in this annual report point to an ever improving trade environment,” Matsaert said, which he added, is expected to spur investments and ultimately benefit the citizens of East Africa. He said results are being seen on the three major areas that were outlined for unlocking East Africa’s economic potential – increased physical access to markets, enhanced trade environment and improved business competitiveness.

. John Byabagambi. The minister of Works and Transport, also commended for the commitment to unlock economic potential of the EAC region through support to implementation of regional integration specifically, through improved market access, enhanced trade environment and improved business competiveness. Consequently, outcomes such as reduction of trade and transport-related costs along key corridors, capacity of public institutions and enhanced participation by the private sector and civil society to drive public sector reforms and improve productivity have been tremendous.

Matsaert said the positive results were a consequence of their core approach of partnership right from initial conception, design, to delivery.

Karin Anderson, the chairperson of Program Investment Committee, an oversight committee of donors that fund TMEA, lauded the organisation for their trade efforts. Ali Mufuruki, the TMEA board chairperson, said they now have more than 160 active projects in their portfolio. He said 201314 saw good progress in improving the coherence of the portfolio through a realigned results framework.

Going forward, Matsaert said they are committed to continue the implementation of their projects with the expectation that the smooth regional trade environment would create jobs and fight poverty among the EAC people. “Increased trade equals reduced poverty,” he said.

Source : The Independent

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