Kenya’s move to reduce the number of roadblocks and weighbridges on its roads has started easing movement of goods in the region.
Data released by the Kenya Maritime Authority and the Kenya Ports Authority show that trucks are now taking only three days to reach Malaba border from Mombasa port compared with up to 10 days two months ago.
The volume of cargo leaving the port has however not improved significantly since government agencies involved in the cargo handling are yet to finalise new measures needed for implementation of a recent presidential decree.
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered that the time taken to move goods from Mombasa port to Malaba be cut to five days in order to quell growing discontent among EAC countries relying on the port over costly non-tariff barriers.
The president directed that all customs decisions be finalised in Mombasa without further reference to Nairobi.
In the directive, the Commissioner of Customs was directed to relocate to Mombasa. The decree also called for immediate digitisation of the clearing process and the modernisation of weighing of cargo.
The Kenya Revenue Authority, KRA, Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate (Kephis) and Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) have over the past weeks started implementing the decrees.
Nancy Karigithu, the director general of KMA, the agency coordinating the weekly port community stakeholders meeting to implement the decrees said smooth flow of cargo along the corridor is now evident.
Statistics released by KPA show that the port delivered an average of 1,114 twenty foot equivalent Units (Teus) a day during the week that ended on July 28.
“Last week, there were only two roadblocks between Mombasa and Malaba. These roadblocks were however, to provide normal security measures,” said Ms Karigithu.
KPA said the port recorded a total throughput of 1,654,769 tonnes in the month of June, against 1,635,408 tonnes handled in the same month last year, representing a slight increase of 19,362 tonnes or 1.2 per cent.
While the five EAC partner states agreed in principle to remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs) by December 2012, this largely depends on the willingness of the 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.
Early this year, there were about 36 roadblocks between Mombasa in Kenya and Kigali in Rwanda, and 30 between Dar es Salaam and the Rusumo border.
Roy Mwathi, Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) Mombasa branch chairman said the smooth flow of trucks have seen them take only three days to reach Malaba border.
“It could take up to 10 days to reach the border due to delays along the corridor,” said Ms Karigithu.
Recent studies show that trucks were spending up to 19 hours crossing borders and weighbridges.
A study funded by the Japan International Corporation Agency (Jica) in 2011, states that each hour wasted on the road by trucks would bring $7 million (Sh630 million) per year in benefits to the EAC region.
Juma Tellah, the Kenya Ship Agents Association chief executive officer, said the gains of the recent directives will only be felt in the coming days once structures to implement them are all in place.
“We expect things to move faster when the upgraded Simba system is operational,” he said.
A Common Customs Territory that was initiated last year is meeting strong opposition from Kenya’s clearing agents, who say that it will lead to job losses.