By Harrison Kivisu
Africa Union’s Special Envoy on Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga has asked East and Central African states to reduce the number of roadblocks, weighbridges and inspections of transit cargo at border points to hasten free movement of goods and services and facilitate cross-border trade.
Addressing the 31st meeting of the Council of Ministers during the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) executive meeting in Mombasa, he said time has come for regional states to actualise paperwork plans and swing into action.
“Why should a truck from Kigali to Mombasa and vice-versa is forced to go through more than 55 barriers on the way, some spend close to Sh100, 000 ($1,000) on bribes. These are some of the things we need to completely deal with to promote regional trade,” said Raila.
Tariff barriers at border points have continued to deal a big blow to the realisation of free trade within regional countries and the AU envoy wants the regional transport ministers to deal with it.
“Inter-Africa trade stands at 15 per cent, far too small compared to Southern America that stands at 25 per cent, We need to stop talking on paper, we need to swing into action and practically make things happen, trade barriers in the borders is something we need to deal with once and for all,” said the former premier.
Raila decried the poor state of infrastructure especially the poor rail in regional states and road network and called for the removal of Non-Tariff Barrier (NTBs) to facilitate trade.
‘‘We are witnessing the resurgence of non-tariff barriers in virtually all partner states,’’ Raila said.
Ugandan Minister of State for Works Katumba Wamala said Uganda solely depends of Kenya’s Mombasa port for its imports and exports and eradication of road barriers on the Northern Corridor would boost economy.
“Uganda depends 90 per cent of its import cargo through Mombasa port. We have experienced a lot of delays especially for cargo coming through the road and this is not something good for the economy,” said Wamala.
The council meeting was attended by among others Kenyas Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, his South Sudan’s counterpart John Luk Jok, Wamala, Burundi’s Transport Ntunzwenimana Jean Bosco, Richard Masozera of Rwanda and Bizimungu Mubare Muichel of Democratic Republic of Congo.