Uganda has completed and launched the road connecting Ntungamo town, 360km southwest of Kampala, to the Mirama Hills/Kagitumba one-stop border post (OSBP) at the border with Rwanda.
Officials at TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and the government hope that the new road will drive more transporters to use the route to Kigali.
Uganda’s Minister of Trade and Co-operatives Amelia Kyambadde said that traders and transporters are hardly using the road, into which the government has sunk more than $30 million since 2013.
Data from TradeMark East Africa shows that 27 per cent of the $30 million has been invested in construction of immigration points, warehouses and clearing and forwarding offices, as well as related information communication technology to link Ugandan and Rwandan officials on both sides of the border.
The rest of the money was used to build the link road from Ntungamo to Mirama Hills.
However, most transporters still prefer the use the Katuna/Gatuna OSBP.
The road from Ntungamo through Gatuna to Kigali is 72 kilometres shorter than the one going through Mirama hills.
According to some of the drivers, it is better to go through Gatuna because they only drive 87 kilometres in Rwanda territory where the country’s speed limits and road use laws are strict.
Sarah Kasheka, the assistant commissioner in charge of business analysis at Uganda Revenue Authority, said the government decided to invest in the Mirama Hills border because it is cheaper and easier to build. Gatuna has a large swamp that will have to be filled before construction can start.
TMEA Uganda country director Moses Sabiiti said that building an OSBP to reduce the time it takes transporters to cross borders is important for governments in the Northern Corridor.
It now takes less than 30 minutes to clear goods at the border.
At the Katuna/Gatuna border, travellers and traders have to line up on both sides of the border.
“The completion of this border post and the road is the last mile to eliminate non-tariff barriers on the Northern Corridor,” Mr Sabiiti said.
The road through Kabale to Katuna and on to Kigali cuts through the Muhavura mountains on both the Uganda and Rwanda side. Drivers say the hills and valleys are difficult to negotiate and can be treacherous especially for long vehicles.
Chair of the Regional Drivers and Transporters Association Byron Kinene said that even if the route through Katuna is shorter, vehicles consume more fuel because drivers have to engage lower gears on sharp bends, slopes and when climbing.
The continued use of the route through Katuna is due to conditioning, as drivers have used it since the 1990s when the war in Rwanda made the Mirama Hills route impassable, Mr Kinene said.
Additional reporting by Morgan Mbabazi