Archives For Rwanda

AGOA States-GAO

“Is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) always a poisoned chalice from the United States of America?”, asks an editorial in The East African. The Kenya newspaper suggests it appeared to be so after the US allowed a petition that could see Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda lose their unlimited opening to its market.

This follows the US Trade Representative assenting last week to an appeal by Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, a used clothes lobby, for a review of the three countries’ duty-free, quota-free access to the country for their resolve to ban importation of used clothes, the The East African continues.

The US just happens to be the biggest source of used clothes sold in the world. Some of the clothes are recycled in countries like Canada and Thailand before being shipped to markets mostly in the developing world.

In East Africa, up to $125 million is spent on used clothes annually, a fifth of them imported directly from the US and the bulk from trans-shippers including Canada, India, the UAE, Pakistan, Honduras and Mexico.

The East Africa imports account for 22 percent of used clothes sold in Africa. Suspending the three countries from the 2000 trade affirmation would leave them short of $230 million in foreign exchange that they earn from exports to the US.

That would worsen the trade balance, which is already $80 million in favour of the US. In trade disputes, numbers do not tell the whole story. Agoa now appears to have been caught up in the nationalism sweeping across the developed world and Trumponomics.

US lobbies have been pushing for tough conditions to be imposed since it was enacted, including the third country rule of origin which would require that apparel exports be made from local fabric.

The rule, targeted at curbing China’s indirect benefits from Agoa through fabric sales, comes up for a legislative review in 2025, making it prudent for African countries to prepare for the worst. Whether that comes through a ban or phasing out of secondhand clothing (the wording that saved Kenya from being listed for a review) is immaterial.

What is imperative is that African countries have to be resolute in promoting domestic industries. In textiles and leather, for instance, that effort should include on-farm incentives for increasing cotton, hides and skins output, concessions for investments in value-adding plants like ginneries and tanneries and market outlets for local textile and shoe companies.

The world over, domestic markets provide the initial motivation for production before investors venture farther afield. Import bans come in handy when faced with such low costs of production in other countries that heavy taxation still leaves those products cheaper than those of competitors in the receiving countries.

The US has also been opposed to heavy taxation of used clothes, which buyers say are of better quality and more durable. For Kenya to be kept out of the review, it had to agree to reduce taxes on used apparel.

These factors have left Agoa beneficiaries in a no-win situation: Damned if you ban, damned if you do not. With their backs to the wall, beneficiaries like Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda have to think long term in choosing their industrial policies and calling the US bluff.

Beneficiaries must speak with one voice to effectively guard against trade conditions that over time hamper domestic industrial growth. Source: The East African, Picture: US GAO

Advertisements
KRA-Customs-Transit-Control

Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner-General John Njiraini announces the implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to rid Mombasa port of corruption

Four East African countries on Tuesday agreed to fast-track implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to enhance regional trade.

Commissioners-general from the Kenyan, Ugandan, Rwandan and Tanzanian revenue authorities said adoption of an excise goods management system would curb illicit trade in goods that attract excise duty across borders.

They said creation of a single regional bond for goods in transit would ease movement of cargo, with taxation being done at the first customs port of entry.

The meeting held in Nairobi supported formation of the Single Customs Territory, terming it a useful measure that will ease clearance of goods and reduce protectionist tendencies, thereby boosting business.

Implementation of the territory is being handled in three phases; the first will address bulk cargo such as fuel, wheat grain and clinker used in cement manufacturing.

Phase two will handle containerised cargo and motor vehicles, while the third will deal with intra-regional trade among countries implementing the arrangement.

The treaty for establishment of the East African Community provides that a customs union shall be the first stage in the process of economic integration.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) commissioner-general John Njiraini said the recently introduced customs and border control regulations were designed to enhance revenue collection and beef up security at the entry points.

“At KRA, we have commenced the implementation of a number of revenue enhancement programmes particularly on the customs and border control front that will address security and revenue collection at all border points while enhancing swift movement of goods,” he said.

To address cargo diversion cases, the regional revenue authorities resolved that a joint programme be rolled out to reform transit goods clearance and monitoring processes. Source: DailyNation (Kenya)

Rwanda - WikipediaRwanda is wooing investors to invest in the country through building special economic zones. The Rwanda Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is a programme within the Rwanda Development Board that is designed to address domestic private sector constraints such as availability of industrial and commercial land, availability and the cost of energy, limited transport linkages, and market access among others.

Francois Kanimba, Rwandan minister of trade and industry told Xinhua on Sunday that the country was ripe for investments especially in manufacturing, service industry, tourism and hospitality, skills development among others.

“We are planning to construct SEZs economic zones across the country where investors will have the opportunity to explore the untapped potentials in Rwanda,” he said.

Kanimba said that Rwanda’s business environment is secure and the cost of doing business is friendly and the World Bank’s doing business reports have for several occasions ranked Rwanda among fastest growing economies in world that have eased the cost of doing business.

The small East African nation has so far constructed Kigali Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) located in Gasabo District within the country’s capital Kigali with phase one and two occupying 98 and 178 hectares of land respectively.

The government is now planning for phase three, which is expected to occupy 134 hectares. Phases one and two of the zone cover a surface area of 277 hectares while the third phase will cover approximately 134 hectares.

The trade zone is well equipped with tarmac roads, water and electricity rollout in all designated plots and a waste water treatment plant.

Kanimba continued that the commercial zones are designed to provide investors with industrial and commercial land, improve availability of electricity and transport linkages.

Official data show last year Rwanda attracted 500 million U.S dollars worth of investments and the government is targeting to double the investments in 2015.

According to 2014 World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, Rwanda was ranked 46 out of 189 economies surveyed globally registering improvements in the ease of obtaining construction permits, getting electricity and getting credit. Source: http://www.xinhuanet.com

EAC-logoSince July 2014, EAC revenue officers work together to facilitate trade within the community. Some improvements remain made; the Single Customs Territory (SCT) does present some advantages. Since the single customs territory is operational, clearing processes are established in the country of destination while the goods are still at the port of Dar es Salaam”, explains Leah Skauki, a SCT liaison officer at the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

Once the declaration is over, when custom duties and taxes are paid, TRA verifies the physical goods. “The office grants a notification testifying that the goods fulfil all requirements in order to get the exit note.” Within the new system, the number of weighbridges and non-tariff barriers are reduced because “truck drivers only have to show the documents which certify that the goods have undergone verification.”

Massoundi Mohamed Ben Ali, Administrative Director in Charge of Human Resources and Import – Export at the Bakhresa Grain Milling Burundi, is pleased with the new development. “Before the system was implemented, Bakhresa used to import 3800 Tonnes of wheat (40 trucks) and we were obliged to declare each truck with a different clearing agent. We now fill in one statement with one clearing agent. The procedures are done quickly with a small of amount of money”, he points out.

Clearing agents testify that the number of statement on the borders is reduced. “Before, transporters had to fill in a transit declaration (T1) on each border”, one of the clearing agents in the Dares Salaam port relates.

Aimable Nsabimana, a focal point of SCT in Dar es Salaam for the Burundi Revenue Authority, indicates that the computerised system they use is different in each country.”It is not easy to exchange data. We are forced to print documents for verification. And when the goods arrive in Tanzania, they are in the hands of the TRA which has its own software”, he notes.

Inter-connectivity of software would facilitate verification and avoid fraud. This opinion is shared by many clearing agents: “If we were interconnected, the Tanzanians would be able to easily access Burundian data and vice versa”, one of them says.

Léonce Niyonzima, programme and monitoring officer at OBR and the national coordinator of SCT, agrees that the lack of interconnectivity causes delays in the transmission of documents.

He says that all EAC countries should have been interconnected by June 2014, but due to technical problems Tanzania and Burundi still lag behind. “There is a technical committee responsible for monitoring and evaluation which will draw up the balance sheet of the challenges before ending the pilot stage at the end of this year.”

The Single Customs Territory is funded by Trademark East Africa with an amount of USD 450 thousand for the redeployment of staff, travel expenses, inspection and supervision, information technology, office equipment and assistance. Source: http://www.iwacu-burundi.org

eabc-flagsThe East African Business Council, the umbrella body of the region’s private sector, has asked governments in the five-member East African Community (EAC) to expedite implementations of the new WTO trade facilitation agreement.

Council chairperson, Felix Mosha, made the appeal on Tuesday during a breakfast meeting with trade facilitation institutions and the business community in Arusha, Tanzania.

WTO members in December 2013 adopted the Agreement on Trade Facilitation during the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia after 10 years of negotiations. The Bali deal aims at boosting poor countries’ ability to trade and allow them more flexibility in food security. The agreed text is currently under review by legal experts and will come into force once two thirds of the 159-member World Trade Organisation accept it.

Trade and Industry minister, Francois Kanimba, told The New Times that implementation of the agreement cannot be done immediately because WTO is yet to give member countries the requisite legal implementation modalities.

“By July, we’ll have got it, so that the process can start,” Kanimba said. He added that Rwanda, after a recent self-assessment on how it stands on the implementation road map, realised most requirements had been attained.

Steps made in facilitating cross-border trade such as the ongoing EAC one-stop border posts, and the 2012 launch of the electronic single window system, were some of the steps taken by Rwanda.

Benefits

“Everything, by nature of trade facilitation is always good. The trade balance for Rwanda is negative and if the Bali agreement helps us improve, it will help us address our development challenges,” the minister said.

“Rwandan traders will also benefit as trade facilitation is about easing things for them. For example, improvements in communication will ease access to vital information they need in different member countries and this will enable many to conduct trade more efficiently.”

With the agreement, WTO members established a new legal framework that fills gaps in the existing General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), in effect since in 1947. The new agreement stipulates obligations and provisions on special and differential treatment for developing and least developed country members as well as the provision of technical assistance and capacity building. Obligations include publication and access to trade related information, appeal procedures, simplification of trade procedures and goods clearance processes, agency cooperation, as well as cross-border customs cooperation.

Calling for the “swift” implementation the WTO Bali Agreement on Trade Facilitation, Mosaha said: “This will go a long way in lowering transaction costs, enhancing competitiveness of the businesses as well increasing intra EAC trade”.

Mosha said that while some progress had been made in ensuring free movement of goods, persons, labour, services and capital, challenges continued to constrain full realisation benefits from integration. Among them he cited 33 non-tariff barriers, non-recognition of the certificate of rules of origin, additional taxes and charges and lack of harmony in domestic tax regime such as excise duty, VAT and income taxes. Source: The New Times.

PAUL-KAGAME-WINDOW-SYSTEMPresident Paul Kagame yesterday launched Kenya National Electronic Single Window System seen as a major boost for regional trade since it will simplify clearance processes of goods.

The launch was part of the activities of the 5th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit held in Nairobi, and was attended by Presidents Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Kaguta of Uganda, as well as the second vice president of Burundi and Tanzania’s prime minister.

Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya – which heavily rely on the Kenyan port of Mombasa – are spearheading a series of joint projects aimed at fast tracking regional development through joint infrastructure, trade and political and economic integration.

The use of Electronic Single Window System is expected to centralise trade services such as tracking of goods, custom clearance, and electronic payment including through mobile money.

The system will also integrate with Kenya Revenue Authority, making the clearance at Kenyan ports a lot faster and easier.

“I just want to reiterate how this is one of many important projects that the East African Community partner states have undertaken to deepen integration that we have been seeking, make business more efficient, and lower the cost of doing business as we move forward,” Kagame said at the launch.

Making tech tick

He reiterated Rwanda’s “continued active participation towards making integration a reality.” President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto described the Single Window System as yet another building bloc in the EAC integration process.

“Our ultimate vision should be to implement an EAC Regional Single Window platform. The benefits from this initiative may not be fully realised unless all of us in the region adopt National Single Window Systems.

“Our brothers in Rwanda are already implementing a Single Window System and similar efforts are underway in Tanzania and Uganda,” Kenyatta said.

The Kenyan leader said the technology will make it possible for traders to submit information about their goods to multiple government agencies in multiple locations, making business faster and more efficient.

After the launch of the Kenya National Electronic Single Window System, also known as Kenya TradeNet, the Heads of State and Government discussed the progress of several other projects under the Northern Corridor initiative. Source: AllAfrica.com

2014 Africa Transformation ReportThe inaugural Africa Transformation Report ranks Mauritius as the most economically transformed country out of 21 sub-Saharan African countries measured in its African Transformation Index, which takes account of a country’s economic diversification, export competitiveness, productivity, state of technology upgrading and human wellbeing.

The continent’s largest economy, South Africa, ranks second and Côte d’Ivoire third, while Nigeria, Burundi and Burkina Faso prop up the index.

The ranking has been included within a larger 207-page study, which cautions that, while many African economies are growing strongly, most economies are not transforming sufficiently to support a sustainable reduction in poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Six of the world’s fastest growing economies are currently in Africa, including Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique and Rwanda, while several others are expanding at growth rates of over 6% a year. However, much of this grow is still premised on the extraction and export of natural resources and is not being broadly spread, leaving more than 80% of the continent’s labour force employed in low-productivity farming, or informal urban business activities.

Compiled over a three-year period by Ghana’s African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) in partnership with South Africa’s Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (Mistra), the study urges African governments to position economic transformation ahead of growth at the centre of their economic and development policies.

Speaking at a launch in Johannesburg, lead author and ACET chief economist Dr Yaw Ansu said growth was “good” and had arisen as a result of macroeconomic reforms, better business environments and higher commodity prices.

“But economic transformation requires much more,” Ansu stressed, arguing that countries needed to diversify their production and exports, become more competitive and productive, while upgrading the technologies they employed in production processes.

ACET president Dr KY Amoako said the transformation narrative had already been accepted by the African Union in its Vision 2063, as well as by the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He added that the African Transformation Index provided policymakers with a quantitative measure for assessing their transformation performance and for guiding future strategies.

Mistra executive director Joel Netshitenzhe argued that to turn growth into an “actual lived experience” for Africa’s citizens there was the urgent need to form national social compacts between government, business and civil society to support transformation.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan emphasised the same point in his recent Budget address, when he highlighted the work being done to secure a social compact to reduce poverty and inequality and raise employment and investment. Gordhan stressed this could not be a “pact amongst elites, a coalition amongst stakeholders with vested interests. Nor can it be built on populist slogans or unrealistic promises”.

“Our history tells us that progress has to be built on a vision and strategy shared by leaders and the people – a vision founded on realism and evidence,” the Minister stressed.

Netshitenzhe also highlighted the report’s emphasis on coupling growth with social development. “In fact, rather than merely being a consequence of economic growth, a reduction in poverty and general human development can be part of the drivers of economic growth.”

The report highlights key transformation drivers as being:

  • Fostering partnerships between governments and the private sector to facilitate entrepreneurship, investment and technology upgrading.
  • Promoting exports, particularly outside of the natural resources sector.
  • Building technical knowledge and skills.
  • And, pushing ahead with regional integration.

Four transformation pathways are also highlighted, including labour-intensive manufacturing; kick-starting agroprocessing value chains, improving the management of oil, gas and minerals; and boosting tourism.

“It’s good that we are growing – we are no longer the hopeless continent. We can transform this hope into reality, but to do that governments must put transformation at the top of their agendas,” Ansu asserted.

He also called on African citizens to begin to demand transformation. “Ask your government, how come we are not diversifying? How come our productivity remains stuck? How come our technological levels and our exports are not growing?” Source: Engineering News

Dr Richard Sezibera meets His Highness the Agha Khan at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha. (Sunday Times Rwanda)

Dr Richard Sezibera meets His Highness the Agha Khan at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha. (Sunday Times Rwanda)

Overlapping membership in several trade areas is impeding “free circulation of goods” within the East African Community-members states, a regional integration and trade expert has said.

Alfred Ombudo K’Ombudo, the Coordinator of the EAC Common Market Scorecard team, has told The News Times that belonging to other trade blocs outside the EAC makes members reluctant to remove internal borders to allow goods to move more freely.

According to K’Ombudo, a Common External Tariff (CET) is critical to ensure free circulation of goods through the application of equal customs duties. The EAC Customs Union protocol has a three-band structure of 0 per cent duty on raw materials, 10 per cent on intermediate goods and 25 per cent on for finished goods.

However, of the five partner states, Tanzania is a member of the SADC and subscribes to a different structure while Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa). On the other hand, Burundi belongs to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

This, according to the expert is “perforation of the bloc’s CET,” drilling a hole in the regions tariff structure as member- states trade with other countries below the agreed tariffs.

“This makes EAC countries less willing to remove internal borders because they are not sure whether goods may have come from other blocs. This is a serious structural problem that is difficult to solve because the customs union legally recognises other blocs that members belong to,” K’Ombudo noted.

Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda’s participation in Comesa and Tanzania’s membership to SADC is recognised by the EAC, but no exception is granted to Burundi for participating in the ECCAS.

Article 37 of the bloc’s Customs Union Protocol recognises other free trade obligations of partner states but it requires them to formulate a mechanism to guide relationships between the protocol and other free trade arrangements.

EAC Secretary General, Richard Sezibera, told The New Times during the launch of the Scorecard in Arusha, that there have been efforts to address the issue of overlapping membership.

“They [EAC leaders] have done two things to [try] addressing it: One is to harmonize the CET of the EAC and that of COMESA. This makes it easier for COMESA states to reduce the level of perforation,” he explained.

He added that in 2008, the heads of state decided to negotiate a free trade area between the EAC, COMESA and SADC as another way of fixing the problem.

Dr Catherine Masinde, the Head of Investment Climate, East and southern Africa at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), said: “If we were not to perforate the EAC would end up with a bigger volume of trade figures”.

She noted that since the launch of the EAC Customs Union, in 2005, the region has witnessed strong growth in intra-regional trade, rising from $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion between 2006 and 2010. Intra-EAC trade to total EAC trade grew from 7.5 per cent in 2005 to 11.5 per cent in 2011.

“This is significant growth but, I am told that this is, in fact, a drop in the ocean. That it is far from the potential of the market. I was given a figure, that $22.7 billion [in inter-regional trade] was actually lost to other regional blocs, from this region, [between 2005 and 2012] because of non-compliance with the common market protocol.” The Scorecard, Masinde hopes, will solve various EAC compliance issues as well as energize reforms to spur the bloc’s development. Source: The Sunday Times (Rwanda)

Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Yoweri Museveni after the trilateral talks in Entebbe, Uganda. President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi stayed out of the loop of the third infrastructure summit in Kigali, Rwanda on Monday. [Photo/PPS]

Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Yoweri Museveni after the trilateral talks in Entebbe, Uganda. President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi stayed out of the loop of the third infrastructure summit in Kigali, Rwanda on Monday. [Photo/PPS]

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have postponed the single customs territory (SCT) roll-out, giving Burundi and Tanzania more time to prepare for the shift.

East Africa Community (EAC) secretariat custom officer Ally Alexander told the committee on Communication, Trade and Investment in Mombasa that the implementation of the model would begin in June.

“We are looking at reducing the costs and number of days to clear the cargo from Mombasa to Kampala to take three days instead of the previous 18 days,” Mr Alexander said.

The SCT was initially planned to begin in January with the three countries moving their revenue staff to common entry and exit points to begin goods clearance. But Tanzania and Burundi protested their exclusion in the arrangement after Kenya announced in January that it was ready to start accommodating revenue officials from the two landlocked states in Mombasa, prompting the three States to go slow on their plans.

On Monday, Mr Alexander told East African Legislative Assembly that SCT would reduce the cost of doing business and bring efficiency in trade. He said for exports within the region, a single regional bond for cargo would be issued to cater for goods from the port of Mombasa to different destinations.

An electronic cargo tracking system would also be used to avoid diversion of goods into the transit market. Under the model, goods will be checked by a single agency on compliance to regional standards and instruments.

“We want to avoid agencies replicating checking on standards, when it is done once this will not be repeated,” he said.

Mr Alexander said goods would be released upon confirmation that taxes have been paid and customs procedures fulfilled.

However goods heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is not a member of EAC will be cleared on a transit basis.

The establishment of SCT has raised concerns among stakeholders, key among them the registration of clearing agents and job losses. Kenya Revenue Authority deputy commissioner customs Nicholas Kinoti said the concerns would be addressed through legislations. Source: http://www.businessdailyafrica.com

East%20Africa%20mapIn the spirit of stronger East African integration, the revenue authorities of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have started preparations for the implementation of a Single Customs Territory. The Commissioners’ General of the three East African countries deliberated on the mechanisms to operationalize the decisions of the heads of state who have continuously called for its fast tracking.

On June 25, 2013 at the Entebbe State House in Uganda, a Tripartite Summit involving the three heads of state issued a joint communiqué directing among other things the collection of customs duties by Uganda and Rwanda before goods are released from Mombasa. The leaders also agreed that traders with goods destined for warehousing should continue executing the general bond security.

During the meeting, the Commissioners’ General of the three countries put in place joint technical committees on ICT, Business Process, enforcement, change management, legal and human resource to discuss the implementation road map.

In a statement signed by the three Commissioners’ General, they said that the development of a Single Customs Territory will positively impact on the trading activities of the three countries as it will ensure that assessment and collection of taxes is done at the country of destination before cargo moves out of the port.

“As a result, the East African Community Customs Union will join the ranks of other Customs Union such as South African Customs Union and the European Union among others. Under this arrangement, restrictive regulations are eliminated as the corridor is now considered for customs purposes. For clarity, circulation of goods will happen with no or minimal border controls,” reads the statement in part.

Kenya said it would cut red tape holding up millions of dollars of imports into its landlocked neighbours Rwanda and Uganda, by letting the countries collect customs on goods as they arrive in its port at Mombasa. Goods can currently face long delays as agents process the paperwork to release cargoes from warehouses at east Africa’s biggest port, and later make separate arrangements to pay import duties at Kenya’s borders with Uganda and Rwanda.

Officials said the new system, due to be introduced in August, would clear inefficiencies and blockages seen as a major barrier to trade in the region. But clearing agents in Kenya said it could also cost thousands of jobs in warehouses, freight firms and almost 700 clearing and forwarding companies operating in the country.

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, together with Burundi and Tanzania, are members of the regional East African Community trade bloc, with a joint gross domestic product of $85 billion.

Kenyan tax officials said the new system would allow a “seamless flow of goods” and make it easier to stop goods getting through the system without customs payments. “Once cleared at the port, there will be no stoppages at borders and checkpoints along the corridor,” the Kenya Revenue Authority’s commissioner of customs, Beatrice Memo, told a news conference.

Under the system, Rwandan and Ugandan clearing agents and customs officials would be able to set up their own offices to clear cargo and collect taxes directly at the port. The Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association said that meant up to half a million jobs could be lost to Uganda and Rwanda. “The Government has not consulted us … and we totally reject it,” said  Association chairman Boaz Makomere. Sources: East African Business Week (Kenya) & The New Vision (Uganda).

Rwanad-Burundi OSBPA one stop border post has been established at Ruhwa in Rusizi District order to reduce the amount of time spent by traders clearing goods at the Rwanda-Burundi border. The one-stop border post is also expected to bolster trade between the two countries and see an infrastructure overhaul at the border area, according to the Minister of State for Transport, Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana.

Under the one border post, travellers will access services at one spot unlike in the past when documents were processed at two locations – one in Rwanda and the other across the Burundi border. The process will now take about five minutes as opposed to 30.

With the new system, immigration, emigration and customs officials from the two countries share offices to ease the clearance procedures for travellers entering or departing either country.

Dr Nzahabwanimana observed that the post is an indication of existing good relations between the two countries and that it will “strengthen brotherhood between our peoples and boost trade between our two countries.”

“The post will ease the movement of people and goods,” Nzahabwanimana on Wednesday. “It will also reduce delays that people incurred while clearing at the border in the past.”

He urged employees to seize the opportunity and improve on the quality of services they provide. He also advised them to exploit modern technologies if they want to make a difference in what they do.

Burundi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works, Deogratias Rurimunzu described the move as “another step forward in the cooperation and friendship” between Rwanda and Burundi. He observed that the border will promote bilateral trade and cooperation abetween both countries.

“Work diligently, use your skills, pto provide better services and put these infrastructures to good use for them to benefit our population,” Rurimunzu told employees at the border post.

About the project

The idea to establish the one-stop border post was first floated in 2009. It is part of a larger project which comprises border infrastructures including administrative blocks, staff quarters, a warehouse, a weighbridge, social facilities, street lighting and water sources, among others.

The project also comprised the renovation of a 50.6 kilometre road between Nyamitanga and Ruhwa on the Burundian side as well as the construction of Ntendezi-Mwityazo Road on the Rwandan side.

The project was sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB), at a cost of about Rwf32billion on either side of the border. Ruhwa one stop border post is the second shared between Rwanda and Burundi following the establishment of the Gasenyi-Nemba border post in Bugesera district in 2011. Source: The New Times, Rwanda

The following article featured in The New Times (Rwanda) provides a snap shot of developments towards a future “Customs Union” in East Africa. While valid concerns are being expressed by traders, how close are the respective Customs administrations in terms of common standards (tariff, regimes, etc), and the application of common external border procedures? The rest of Africa should follow this process closely. Unlike the EU, where it is incumbent of prospective Customs Union members to first attain and implement minimum customs standards prior to accession, here you have a pot-pourri of member states who apply national measures aspiring to an ultimate regional standard. Who determines this standard? Who is going to maintain ‘watch’ over the common implementation of such standards? Forgive the long article – this is a very significant development for the African continent.

0c8d8_logo_of_east_african_community_eac_-63ae9With the East Africa Community integration process gaining pace rapidly, clearing and forwarding agents have been advised to set up shop at entry ports under the proposed single customs territory.

Angelo Musinguzi, the KPMG tax manager, who is representing traders on the team of experts negotiating the establishment of the single customs territory, challenged the agents to look at the opportunities that the policy brings instead of focusing on how it will harm their businesses. “You need to look at this as an opportunity for business expansion because this policy will remove trade tariff barriers, duplication of time-consuming and costly processes and corruption. This will improve efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business,” he said.

The advice follows a deal reached by Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda where top customs officials from landlocked Rwanda and Uganda will be stationed at Mombasa port to ensure quick clearing of goods and curb dumping of cheap products in the region. Under the deal, Kenya will create space for its partners to set up customs clearing units.

Rwanda was given the task of establishing the single customs territory at the recently-concluded meeting between Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni held in Entebbe, Uganda. However, local clearing and forwarding agents as well as traders are skeptical about the deal and want the process delayed until Rwandan businesses are supported to become more competitive.

“There are issues we still have to examine critically before the policy is implemented. For example, who will collect revenue and how will it be collected? How will Rwanda share the revenue? Will we have a common legal framework? Will we share Kenya’s or Tanzania’s infrastructure?

Fred Seka, the Association of Freight Forwarders and Clearing Agents of Rwanda president, noted that the move could affect them negatively if it is not studied carefully. “We have already raised the matter with the Minister of Trade. Besides hurting small firms, the country will lose jobs when companies relocate to Mombasa or Dar es Salaam. That is a big concern for us,” Seka said.

He noted that some of the partner states have many trade laws that might affect their operations. “It would be better if a locally-licensed company is not subjected to any other conditions once it relocates to Mombasa,” Seka noted.

Mark Priestley, the TradeMark East Africa country director, said the research firm and other players were currently conducting studies on how the single customs territory can operate without harming any player. “The intention is not only to ensure that we get rid of barriers which have been hampering trade, but also reduce the cost of doing business within the region,” he said. He added, however, that it was too early for traders to be scared of the consequences of operating under the single customs territory.

Last year the Permanent Secretary in the EAC Ministry, stated that the model which will involve shifting customs operations from Rwanda to the ports of Mombasa, and Dar es Salaam, will lead to unemployment, revenue loss and adverse multiplier effects. According to the model, certificates of origin of goods would be scrapped, which, according to Kayonga, would lead to the suffocation of local industries as well as making the region a dumping ground for unnecessary products.

Scovia Mutabingwa, the Aim Logistics East Africa managing director, said there was need for more consultations on the operation of the single customs territory “to understand how it will work”. “We need to know where our bargaining power is in the region?” Mutabingwa said. She noted that there was a need to first harmonise other trade policies if the single customs territory is to benefit all businesses in the region. She pointed out that she had applied for a clearing and forwarding licence in Tanzania over one and half years ago, but she was yet to get it. “How shall we work in such countries?” she wondered.

Another clearing firm, urged those negotiating the deal to ensure uniformity in tax policies across the region. “In Rwanda, there is 100 per cent tax compliancy, but we know this is not the same in other countries. How will we compete favourably if such issues are not addressed?” she wondered.

While one needs at least $300,000 to open a business in Kenya or they have to give a stake in their company to a resident, non-Kenyan companies also pay higher taxes at 35 per cent corporate tax compared to 30 per cent for locals.

Tanzania still has over 63 trade laws, and to operate a clearing firm there you need to be a Tanzanian, according to Musinguzi.

The East African Community (EAC) Customs Union Protocol came into effect in July 2009 after it was ratified by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 2004 and later by Rwanda and Burundi in 2008. The creation of the EAC customs union was the first stage of the four step EAC regional integration process.

When fully implemented, the customs union will consolidate the East Africa Community into a single trading bloc with uniform policies, resulting in a larger economy. By working together to actualise the customs union, partner states will deepen EAC co-operation, allowing their citizens to reap the benefits of accelerated economic growth and social development.

However, the customs union is not yet fully implemented because there is a significant level of exclusions to the common external tariff and tariff-free movement of goods and services.

sezFree zones are often seen as a cure-all remedy to the problems developing economies encounter when trying to attract FDI. However, the reality is that such projects need careful planning and long-term support if they are to fulfil such wishes. A report published by fDI Magazine, and featured online – fdiintelligence.com – covers the topic quite comprehensively. While the article it is titled ‘Free Zones’ it’s not quite certain whether all developments sited follow the same business model. Nonetheless it provides some interesting insight to developments across the globe. Of particular interest for Africa are references to developments in Rwanda, Botswana, and the Gambia. In the case of the latter, the Gambian government’s decision to legally enable companies to operate as standalone zones, whereby businesses are permitted to enjoy the benefits of being a ‘free zone’ entity without having to establish in the country’s business park, could enable Gambia to attract investors who wish to have a greater degree of choice over the location of their premises.

Some of the key messages of the article come in the form of cautionary’s –

“the ‘build it and they will come’ assumption over SEZs will not guarantee investor interest”

“while governments are quick to launch them with great fanfare, a lack of on-going support afterwards hinders the zone from developing to a competitive and world-class standard…many projects remain just that – a project”

“while the idea of clustering several companies from a few specific sectors sounds promising on paper, in practice this can be detrimental to foreign enterprises”.

Read the full report here!

Headquarters of the Rwanda Revenue Authority

Headquarters of the Rwanda Revenue Authority

Thirteen companies, three of them Rwandan, last week signed a Memorandum of understanding with Rwanda Revenue Authority to be accorded preferential treatment when clearing their goods at customs. The Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) is a regional trade facilitation program recommended by the world customs organization to ease trade and customs clearance for tax compliant and prominent importers and exporters.

Delay in clearing goods at customs is one of the major impediments to smooth trading within the East African Community (EAC). It also contributes to making the EAC region one of the most expensive places to do business despite being the second most growing economy in the world. The AEO creates some kind of obstacle-free zone where traders in the import or export business, known to be complaint with customs requirements, are accorded special treatment to ease the process of clearing their goods while in transit.

The pilot project will see how the system works in reality and the beneficiaries have all been informed of their rights and which ports or borders to claim them from. Rwanda customs officials issue special identifiers to the beneficiaries to help them identify the benefiting traders once their goods appear at any of the designated custom points. These identifiers will be recognizable everywhere in the five partner states of the EAC where the beneficiaries will pass and claim their privileges as AEO.

The growth of global trade and increasing security threats to the international movement of goods have forced customs administrations to shift their focus more and more to securing the international trade flow and away from the traditional task of collecting customs duties.

Recognizing these developments, the World Customs Organization (WCO) drafted the WCO Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate global trade (SAFE). In the framework, several standards are included that can assist customs administrations in meeting these new challenges and developing an Authorized Economic Operator programme is a core part of SAFE. Source: AllAfrica.com

Notwithstanding efforts to minimize collusion, bribery and corruption through increased use of technology, the underlying fact remains that human intervention cannot be completely removed from nodes within the supply chain.Identifying the causes and parties involved in such activity is only the start (yet minuscule) aspect of a problem entrenched in the distrust of government officials and border authorities in particular. Integrity is based on trust. If trust is the placement of hordes of incompetence in public jobs to secure votes, then you will not need to look very far to understand that “the bribe” epitomizes the ultimate enterprise of individuals either bent on extortion, or to avail their services (like prostitutes  to the crooked trader. The following article “Bribery as a non-tariff barrier to trade” (click hyperlink to download) takes account of a wide-spread of role players as to their views and attitudes on the matter. In my view it is a template for what actually occurs at every border across the continent. 

Transparency International (Kenya) and Trade Mark (East Africa) have collaborated in the publication of a review on the subject of bribery in the EAC region. The executive summary elucidates the context – 

The East African Common Market Protocol that came into force in 2010 provides for the free flow of goods, labour, services and capital across the EAC bloc. To achieve this, members undertook to remove all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. While progress has been made on the removal of the former, doing away with the Non-tariff barriers along the main transport corridors of the region has remained a challenge.

Taking cognizance of this, Transparency International-Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in conjunction with the Transparency Forum in Tanzania conducted a survey along EAC‘s main corridors — the Northern and Central corridors- that form a vital trade link in the region between August and November 2011. The survey objectives were to measure the impact of bribery practices and create public awareness on the vice.

In determining the size of bribe payable, negotiations came top. The value of consignment and the urgency were some of the other factors sighted by the respondents. According to the survey, truck drivers have devised various means of accounting for bribery expenses to their employers. The most common is road trip expense’. These are anticipated regular amounts given prior to the start of a journey and ad hoc miscellaneous expenses. In the transporters’ books of accounts, the bribes are normally disguised either as anticipated regular amounts or as ad hoc miscellaneous expenses. Source: Transparency International and Trade Mark