Time to make One Stop Border Posts a Reality
Citizens of the region are set to benefit a great deal through facilities offered by the One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) in the EAC Partner States. Already where the facilities are running bilaterally, there is facilitation of free movement of persons and the enhancement of trade between the Partner States, an EALA report adopted by the House states.
In the regard, regional legislators are calling for the fast-tracking of all remaining works of the OSBPs to allow its implementation for further integration.
At the same time, it is key for the assent of the OSBP Bill, 2013, in the Partner States to be finalised to give it legal effect in the entire region. It has been stated that Partner States are implementing the OSBP Initiatives bilaterally as they await for completion of the Assent process. At the moment, the Bill which was introduced by the Council of Ministers is in Rwanda for the final assent signature. Already, the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have assented to the Bill.
The recommendations are contained in a report of the Communication Trade and Investments (CTI) on the OSBPs in EAC Partner States debated and passed by the House. The report was presented to the House by Hon. Nancy Abisai on behalf of the Committees Chair, Hon. Mukasa Mbidde.
EALA Members undertook an On-Spot Assessment on the One-Stop Border Posts in EAC Partner States in the months of April and September 2015. Phase one of the assessment covered OSBPs of Mutukula (Uganda/Tanzania), Mirama Hill/Kagitumba (Uganda/Rwanda) and Rusumo (Rwanda/Tanzania) on 8th to 11th April 2015. The second phase covered Lungalunga/HoroHoro (Kenya/Tanzania), Taveta/Holili (Kenya/Tanzania) and Namanga (Tanzania/Kenya) from 30th September to 3rd October 2015.
The objectives of the One–Spot assessment was to find out the status of implementation of the OSBP initiative project and its effect on the movement of people and the EAC business environment. It also set to interact with stakeholders and identify opportunities and challenges affecting the implementation of effective OSBPs and to come up with relevant recommendations.
Stakeholders who participated in the On-Spot Assessments included Revenue Authorities, Immigration, Bureau of Standards, Police, Clearing and Forwarding Agents, and Traders. Others were Transporters, Local Authorities and Development Partners as well as officials from the EAC Secretariat.
One Stop Border Posts lessen days and facilitate inter-regional and international transport and road transit. According to analysts, when exiting one country and entering another, OSBPs combine two stops into one.
During the meetings, Members were informed that the construction of OSBPs were delayed at the Mutukula (Tanzania side) due to late handover of the site, power outages and floods among others. Mutukula on the Uganda side also had delays occasioned by re-designing challenges, delays in relocation of police posts occupying the area and delay in release of funds among others.
The OSBP on Mirama Hills, which was financed by TradeMark East Africa to the tune of USD 7.8 Million was however completed in time as was the facility at Kagitumba, Rwanda/Uganda border.
Construction at Rusumo border is expected to be concluded in time in December 2015. In Namanga, the Report indicates that construction on the Tanzania side has been completed even though not formally handed over due to a number of outstanding issues. On the Kenya side, a number of challenges continue to hamper the completion including erratic power supply, lack of drive through scanners for goods carrying vehicles and funding shortages.
Generally on all borders, there is limited knowledge on borders with regards to OSBPs, lack of operating manuals and inadequate water supply. In its findings, the report underscores training and sensitisation programs and the need for teamwork.
At debate, Hon. Shyrose Bhanji lamented that implementation of the decisions of the House were overlooked. “I had hoped to hear there is 100% implementation of the OSBPs. The reasons given for the delay are not good. Where is the problem, Hon Speaker”, she posed. “The process of getting the Bill has been costly. It is important that it is effected”, she said.
Hon. Straton Ndikuryayo said the Bill was key in ensuring trade facilitation. Hon. Bernard Mulengani said various basic amenities including school, water and housing were lacking and this may have impact on enhancing OSBPs. He further said Partner States were managing OSBPs on bilateral agreements and there was need to address the matter.
Hon. Hafsa Mossi rooted for awareness creation and requested Investment authorities should avail information on investment opportunities at the border. She further called for the harmonisation of the time zones between the Partner States. At the moment, Rwanda and Burundi are one hour in the time zone behind Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The Secretary-General of the EAC, Amb. Dr Richard Sezibera mentioned that the EAC Summit of EAC Heads of State was keen to assent to the Bills more efficiently. “In the recent past, they have assented to Bills including the EAC HIV and AIDS Management Act, 2012, EAC Conflict Management Act, 2012, EAC Elections Act, 2012 and the EAC Community Emblems (Amendment) Act, 2008. Others are the Customs Management Amendment Act, 2012 and the EAC Supplementary Act, 2012”, he remarked.
The Secretary-General reiterated that the EAC OSBP Bill and the Vehicle Load Bill were currently in Rwanda on the last stop and that the process of assent was on.
Hon. Sara Bonaya noted that the issue of ownership of land was necessary as was the standard of optimal parcels of land for future expansion. Others who supported the report were Hon. Taslima Twaha, Hon. Dr James Ndahiro, Hon. Pierre Celestin Rwigema and Hon. Dr Kessy Nderakindo.