The recent Kenya-Uganda joint presidential launch of the Busia one-stop border post (OBSP) marked a significant achievement in regional integration and trade in the East African Community.
But why does the launch of a border crossing point deserve such high profile interest? To understand why, it is important to know where we have come from.
The one-stop border post is a welcome departure from the two-stop border post model characterised by tonnes of paperwork, lengthy clearance transactions, and duplication of exit/entry procedures that cause delays and increase the cost of doing business.
In the traditional border practice, an importer, exporter or a traveller needed to obtain exit clearance from one side of the border before moving over to the other side for entry clearance. These crossing procedures depicted a glaring disconnect among EAC member countries in clearance of cargo.
The OSBP concept has alleviated the situation by improving border crossing speed and efficiency thus reducing barriers to trade and improving business competitiveness. The major reason for establishing OSBPs along transport corridors is to expedite the movement of goods and people, and to reduce transport costs across national boundaries.
At an OSBP, passengers, cargo and vehicles stop just once to process border crossing formalities in order to exit one partner state and enter the other. All procedures and processing of documentation for goods and passengers are carried out in a single clearance hall for exit and entry.
If cargo inspection is necessary or required, it is done once through joint inspection involving all interested border agencies from both partner states at the same time and location.
The efficiency of an OSBP is enhanced by redesigning and improving physical infrastructure, procedures and processes, in order to facilitate expeditious movement, release and clearance.
Through OSBPs, there has been improved cross-border security, a reduction in revenue leakages as well as better resource utilisation through improved cross-border co-operation and sharing of resources and intelligence.
National governments stand to benefit from the OSBP model through improved collection of trade taxes, efficient borders that facilitate international trade, investment, and economic growth, promotion of economic competiveness and improved relations between countries.
For road transport operators, shippers and customs agents, the OSBP model has resulted in fewer delays at borders and reduced operating costs, faster truck turnaround times, predictability of border and transit procedures and quicker processing of documents. It also comes with savings in the cost of inputs, increased reliability of shipments enabling reduced inventories and reduced capital tied up in logistics through just-in-time delivery.
At the OSBPs, travellers and tourists are enjoying less time spent crossing borders as well as predictable, transparent and harmonised procedures.
Employee motivation for border staff has also improved through the use of simplified procedures as well as from working in better buildings and with more advanced equipment. This translates to increased productivity.
The implementation of the Busia OSBP, for instance, has resulted in a reduction of border crossing clearance time by an average of 80 per cent, strengthened co-operation between Kenya and Uganda, and improved co-ordination of all the border regulatory agencies led by the respective country revenue authorities.
The Busia OSBP is one of 13 facilities that have been set up across the region since the enactment of the East African Community One Stop Border Post Act, 2016.
The OSBP model, supported by other trade facilitation initiatives like the Regional Cargo Tracking System and the Single Customs Territory, has decongested border posts and encouraged compliance by traders, including small scale cross border traders, resulting in increased revenue collection.
Through OSBP, the EAC is more economically competitive, experiences improved border security, and has co-ordinated use of government resources at the border posts, thus strengthening trade relations between member states.
Joe Musyoki is the commissioner for Customs and Border Control at the Kenya Revenue Authority. [email protected]