East Africa traders blame Customs officials for border woes

Monday April 2 2018

Trucks waiting for customs clearance at Rusumo

Trucks waiting for customs clearance at Rusumo on the Rwanda-Tanzania border. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

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Cross-border traders are blaming Customs officials for harassment, high taxes, and inspection of their products by the customs authorities at the border points.

According to the traders, the officials lack information on the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol.

The traders were speaking at the recently concluded 20-year anniversary celebrations of the East African Business Council in Nairobi.

“Most of these officers do not understand what the Common Market Protocol entails. You will be charged taxes at the border on every product even when you try to explain that you are East African and it is not right,” said Charity Githinji, the managing director of Tandaza Tanzania Ltd.

She said that although the one stop border posts have helped ease the cost and time of doing business, not all the Customs officers understand how they work.

“If, for example, I am crossing the border from Tanzania to Kenya, I am subjected to checks on both sides instead of just one side,” said Ms Githinji.

She cited the single tourist visa as one of the boosts for business in the region, even though only Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have signed it.

Hajjat Nakasujja, the chief executive of Aloesha Organic Natural Health Products, said there was a need to sensitise Customs officials on what free trade under the EAC entails.

“New rules, regulations and agreements are passed but the information does not reach the border officials. This is where the challenge is,” said Ms Nakasujja.

EABC chairman, Jim Kabeho recommended implementation of the EAC laws and protocols.

“There is a need for dialogue within the region to eliminate trade barriers, improve cross-border trade, institute tax revenue streams as well as integrate business communities for fair competition,” said Mr Kabeho.

He said that implementing the Common External Tariff, which is still under review, has been challenging to partner states.

Peter Munya, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for East African Community and Northern Corridor, said there is a need for proper follow-up and representation by stakeholders to implement the decisions.

“For smooth flow of business, the key agenda for integration should be the harmonisation of laws. The region needs to have one institution responsible for clearance of goods,” he said.