Nairobi: Kenya is set to drastically reduce the number of roadblocks and weighbridges on its roads in the next five months as it seeks to ease movement of goods and services in the region, quelling growing discontent in EAC countries over costly non-tariff barriers. Finance Minister Robinson Githae said the government will review relevant regulations and guidelines to ensure all weighbridges are relocated to ports of entry and roadblocks are either removed or reduced to a bare minimum.
“Kenya and the EAC region can ill afford the high costs associated with delays occasioned by weighbridges and roadblocks along the Northern Corridor, which serves our landlocked neighbours Uganda, Rwanda and DRC,” said Mr Githae while reading the Kenya’s budget for the 2012/2013 fiscal year.
While the five EAC partner states have in principle agreed to remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs) by December 2012, this largely depends on the willingness of the different countries in the absence of a legally binding framework.
Frustration is growing among landlocked countries like Rwanda that are paying a heavy price for the unnecessary and costly delays caused by NTBs like weighbridges and port inefficiencies in Kenya, through which their goods must pass.
Rwanda last month threatened to take its neighbours to court over the continued existence of NTBs in the EAC, which it says, increase the cost of doing business for its industries, making them uncompetitive.
Kenya also aims to cut cargo clearance times at the port of Mombasa to a maximum of three days from the current 7-14 days, and at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to one day. For goods being moved by road, cargo clearance times should drop to just one hour from the present two days.
“Kenya will finalise a Trade Promotion Strategy whose implementation will expand and diversify exports, with particular attention to high value primary products such as macadamia and cashewnuts that have shown excellent prospects in the export markets,” said Mr Githae. “We will continue with the collaborative infrastructure investment, and remove inefficient Customs procedures including complicated rules of origin and other non-tariff barriers, in line with the existing EAC Protocols”, he added.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of EAC David Nalo said removal or reduction of roadblocks especially on the Northern Corridor from Mombasa to Kampala through Busia will drastically reduce the cost and time of doing business in the region. “The landlocked countries in the region stand to benefit most as the cost and time of doing business will reduce and consumers will have easy and cheaper access to goods and services,” said Mr Nalo.
There are about 36 roadblocks between Mombasa in Kenya and Kigali in Rwanda, and 30 between Dar es Salaam and the Rusumo border with Rwanda; Uganda has nine between Malaba and Katuna border points on its Kenya and Rwanda borders respectively.
Over the past seven years, regulatory reforms in the EAC have focused on simplifying regulatory processes, such as trading across borders and starting a business in the region. Traders and truck drivers in the region complain of the numerous police roadblocks especially on the Kenyan roads, differing transit procedures, longer Customs and administrative procedures and varying trade regulations in the region.
Currently, NTBs include weighbridges, roadblocks, and poor infrastructure such as bad roads, unnecessary delays at border posts plus lack of harmonised import and export standards and procedures/documentation.
While Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda have nine export documents, Uganda has six and Tanzania five. Rwanda and Burundi each have 10 import documents while Kenya has nine and Tanzania and Uganda each have seven. It is estimated that up to 40 per cent of the price of retail goods imported into these countries reflects transport costs.