Edna Mudibo, a Kenyan smallscale trader in the border town of Busia who frequents Uganda, has found a renewed drive to carry on with her business and has ended years of cat and mouse games with police officers and border officials.
This, thanks to a new initiative that further seeks to bolster trade relations between Kenya and Uganda.
Unwilling to pass through the gazetted routes due to payment of duty, Edna, and many of her fellow traders would use clandestine but dangerous routes to ferry goods across the Kenyan– Ugandan border.
At times she would hire a man in a wheelbarrow to transport her goods through rough terrain, away from the main road network which would take her days to cross the Kenyan side.
When she would bump into police officers who were doing random surveillance, they would confiscate all her goods, take the money she had and sometimes beat her. “It is a terrible experience and sometimes women do this because of lack of experience. Majority of women who used to take these routes would end up being even raped by these policemen,” she said.
She is among over 20,000 small scale traders in Kenya and Uganda who are now growing their fortunes by freely trading across the border, thanks to the new one stop border posts.
The initiative, which was unveiled in February, 2018 by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, combines two national border controls into one reducing the time it takes to clear goods and people across the shared borders.
It ensures effective border control mechanisms are in place. It will boost trade by cutting the time taken to clear goods between the two nations and improving coordination and collaboration between the different agencies, thus contributing to a reduction in transport cost, whilst increasing volumes of transit cargo through the Northern Corridor. It is expected that time to cross the border will continue reducing.
The OSBP, straddling the border comprises offices and space for immigration processes and verification; customs offices including warehousing and cold rooms for the goods traded across the border; and other facilities for improving trade across the border.
The facility is one of the measures that President Kenyatta and his counterparts from other EAC countries have spearheaded to ease the movement of goods and people within the region.
“This facility is an important link for ease of trade between our two countries. Uganda continues to be an important trading partner for Kenya. Opportunities for increased trade and investment have been created. I am happy to hear that because of this OSBP here in Busia, our revenue authority has been able to collect more revenues, a clear indication of increased trade flows,” said President Kenyatta while delivering his address.
Over the years, delays in cross border clearance were attributed to duplication of clearance procedures on either side of the border, poor institutional arrangement and cargo management systems and inadequate physical infrastructures.
The new established OSBP has already addressed some of these challenges. Surveys indicate that since operationalization of the OSBP early this year, the average time to cross the Busia border has reduced by 84%.
TradeMark East Africa supported and oversaw the implementation of the project. “The completion and operationalisation of the Busia OSBP is a crucial milestone in increasing access to markets and the facilitation of the movement of cargo along the Northern Corridor. When initially investing $12 million with our donors, the United Kingdom and Canada, greater access to markets, increased efficiency that would reduce costs by reducing time and improved infrastructure were just a few of our end goals. Ultimately, our projects in physical infrastructure and automation of key government trade processes such as customs, have complemented each other to reduce the cost of doing business and boost trade volumes, increasing both Kenya’s and Uganda’s overall trade competitiveness. Most importantly, they have contributed to economic growth and governments’ efforts towards job creation.” said TradeMark East Africa CEO Frank Matsaert.
Busia border is one of the busiest in East Africa handling transit to and from the Great Lakes region of Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and South Sudan. Based on recent TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) independent Time and Traffic Survey, total weekly traffic count Busia Kenya is 3324 vehicles and 1784 for Busia Uganda. Most importantly, this border handles the largest number of informal cross border traders in the EAC.
It has been marked as one of the most crucial infrastructural projects fostering integration in East Africa.
“I am glad that the people and the leadership of the East African Community have taken this point to heart: wherever I go in the region, I find a new appreciation of the importance of integration, and a new commitment to bringing the people of East Africa together,” added President Kenyatta.
Construction of the Busia OSBP was carried out with funding of US$11.7million from the United Kingdom through the Department for International Development (DFID) while the systems and other related soft infrastructure equivalent to US$1.2million was funded by Global Affairs, Canada.
TradeMark East Africa through its donors and in partnership with the East Africa Community has since 2010 supported 13 OSBPs in East Africa including South Sudan and has invested about US$117 million in OSBPs and access roads.
These include Busia and Malaba at Kenya-Uganda borders, Kagitumba/Mirama Hills at the Rwanda- Uganda borders, Mutukula at the Tanzania- Uganda borders, Holili- Taveta at the Kenya- Tanzania borders, Nimule- Elegu at the Uganda- South Sudan borders, Kobero- Kabanga at the Burundi- Tanzania borders and Tunduma on the Tanzanian side of the Tanzania-Zambia border.