Kenya hopes to boost regional trade by improving the efficiency and clearance of cargo and passengers on the Northern Corridor by opening a one-stop-border-post (OSBP) with Uganda at the Suam crossing in northwest Kenya.
The upgrading of the Suam border post is coming slightly over one year after that of Busia and Malaba OSBPs.
The Suam border post, and the subsequent opening of the Kitale-Suam-Kapachorwa trade route is expected to ease pressure on Malaba, which is a major entry and exit point between Kenya and Uganda, and onwards to DR Congo with about 1,000 trucks crossing daily.
“The congestion at Malaba is really frustrating to the business community because it is the main crossing point to Uganda,” Wanja Kiragu, operations director at East Africa Online Transport Agency told The EastAfrican.
While it takes an average of five hours for trucks to get cleared, at the worst, they could queue the whole day.
In recent weeks, traders using the border crossing have been complaining of extended delays occasioned by the intermittent failure of the new version of Asycuda World tax system that Uganda Revenue Authority is still testing.
The situation is bound to get worse when Kenya Revenue Authority starts implementing the Integrated Customs Management System in the coming months to replace the obsolete Simba system.
Kenya is concerned that although Uganda still prefers the Northern Corridor, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo are increasingly turning to the Central Corridor in Tanzania.
Another concern is the declining intra-East Africa Community trade, particularly with Uganda, which has stagnated at $277 million for the period between May 2016 and June 2017 according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
Thus the Suam border crossing is critical, and Kenya and Uganda have partnered in a multinational project to upgrade the Kitale-Suam-Kapachorwa road.
Kenya has contracted Construction Engineering Corporation of China to work on the 45km Kitale-Suam road at a cost of $42.8 million. This includes the construction of the Suam OSBP. The project will be completed in mid 2020.
The African Development Bank is funding 85 per cent of the project and the Kenyan government the rest.
“We want to link with Uganda at different points because we expect a lot of economic activities and increase in trade in the future,” said Peter Mundinia, director general, Kenya National Highways Authority.
ALSO READ: Mombasa remains port of choice for Uganda