Rwandan exporters have breathed a sigh of relief following the move by the Tanzania government to privatise part of the operations at the port of Dar es Salaam. The move, they said, will improve service delivery, especially in the area of clearance of goods.
It now takes two days from five, to clear goods in Dar es Salaam, putting it at par with Mombasa, in Kenya.
Tanzania opted for part privatisation of port operations to counter competition from the port of Mombasa, since more importers and exporters (especially from Rwanda, Uganda and eastern DR Congo) were opting to use Mombasa which is more advanced in facilities and cargo clearance.
The port authority in Dar es Salaam has been accused by landlocked countries that depend on it, of harassment, denial of access to the facility leading to longer periods which imports take at the port before clearance, weighing heavily on the profitability of importers.
The government of Tanzania is also taking a leaf from the private operators and is setting up infrastructure to improve the handling facility. The Rwandan business community have welcomed the improvements at the port.
Over 60 per cent of Rwanda’s imports go through Mombasa and have to cross two border posts; at Malaba and Gatuna, which is more costly, and this is mainly due to cumbersome procedures at Dar es Salaam.
“With better services at Dar es Salaam port, more Rwandan importers and exporters will switch to the central corridor because it makes more business sense,” said Theodore Murenzi, the chairperson of the Rwanda Transporters Association.
Although the distance from Dar to Kigali is longer than from Mombasa to Kigali at 718 miles and 678 miles respectively, Rwandan importers prefer the central corridor but the road network poses some challenges.
Mr Murenzi, however, added that the northern corridor is of an advantage to Rwandan business community because it has better infrastructure.
The northern corridor is also still preferable for landlocked countries like Rwanda and eastern DR Congo because the Kenyan government has reduced the number of non-tariff barriers as opposed to the central corridor.
Even more encouraging was the recent launch by Trade Mark East Africa in Dar es Saalam of a project that will see the easy movement of goods along the central corridor and which will benefit five countries including DR Congo.
Experts say that in order to implement the protocols that were signed by the East African Community member states, it is important that every country aligns it’s national laws with those of the Community.
“In order to have the four freedoms of movement of factors of production which are capital, labour, land and goods, it is important to implement and enforce the protocols,” said Mark Priestley, the Trade Mark Rwanda country director.
Although commitments towards a Common Market have been made, it does not fully exist today because there are still barriers to trade, laws that are not harmonised, therefore EAC is still in a position where deep benefits of the protocols are yet to be realised.