The Northern Corridor, a lifeline for the region, is constantly facing challenges that affect cross-border trade, slow trade and cause shocks to economies struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
South Sudan , Uganda and Kenya are still working on the recent resumption of truck transport to Juba after weeks of blockade. But earlier this month, South Sudan asked the Uganda Revenue Authority to start rolling out Electronic Freight Ticket Certificates (ECTN), adding another layer of costly regulations for importers and shippers and increasing the cost of using the Northern Corridor.
This means that for all goods destined for South Sudan and DR Congo from the port of Mombasa or Dar es Salaam via the border points of Kenya and Uganda, an electronic waybill certificate must be issued at a minimum cost of $ 75 for exports and Imports.
The fee is between $ 75 and $ 100 for vehicles, 20-foot containers are $ 80 and 40-foot containers are $ 110. Truck drivers who violate this order will be fined from $ 10,000 to $ 500,000, depending on the type of goods being transported.
The charges are set out in a circular dated December 18, 2020, the from the South Sudanese Minister of Commerce and. Industrie Kuol Athian Mawien was signed.
It reads: “All hauliers, companies, shippers and forwarders, road hauliers, importers and shipping companies, airlines and others involved in transport either for goods import / export or in transit involved to and from South Sudan must meet all requirements of the trade facilitation system introduced by South Sudan. “
” The institutions concerned must ensure the strict application of this circular / letter. If the ECTN is not presented and you fail to comply, you will face the sanctions provided by South Sudanese regulations and fines ranging from US $ 10,000 to US $ 500,000 in that regard. “
Kenneth Chemase, a liaison officer and agent for Kenya, said the International Freight and Warehousing Association on the Malaba-Kenya-Uganda border said the implementation took transportation companies by surprise. “This is a report we received from the Uganda Revenue Authority that they will start implementing the ECTN soon and will be paying some fees. How high the fee is and when it will be implemented is not yet known. This is new information we just received. Implementation has yet to begin. ”
Freight handling agents at the Malaba-Kenya-Uganda border also said they were not aware of the new conditions for South Sudan.
When contacted, said the managing director of the East African Business Council, John Bosco Kalisa, stated that the ECTN was already being implemented in the region and that only South Sudan and the DR Congo would still implement it.
“We are planning discussions with everyone involved , including tax authorities and hauliers, to educate truck drivers about the need to implement, “said Mr Kalisa.
” So truck drivers should continue their work while we all wait partners involved in the matter. “Mr. Kalisa clarified what appeared to be an oral instruction from the URA to the border guards to implement the ECTN.
” DRC is already tracking the cargo. But South Sudan is struggling with connectivity issues. Because of this, there was a strike (truck drivers), “said Mr Kalisa regarding complaints from truck drivers about delays.
” The system was in place but it was not effective. the challenges in South Sudan such as insecurity, lack of electricity and a lack of internet. But the idea was accepted by South Sudan, but the problem is the usability given the challenges of the infrastructure. ”
He made it clear that the ECTN is not a barrier to trade. “The purpose is to prevent the diversion of cargo and the smuggling of goods by monitoring how the cargo moves when there are roadblocks and when there are problems related to an NTB,” Kalisa said.
He said the tracking system enables merchants to monitor the movement of their goods from the port of entry (Mombasa) to the final destination.
“Once you have logged into the system, the importer and owner of the Freight as well as the tax authorities can track where the truck is. There is this element of protecting revenue as well as preventing cargo from being diverted. ”
But the ECTN comes at a difficult time amid uncertainty concerns in Uganda. Border between Kenya and South Sudan. Recently, due to the uncertainty on the Nimule-Elegu border route to Juba, over 1,056 trucks were stranded at the Elegu border crossing, risking the loss of goods and the spread of Covid-19.
The EABC estimates that one If a truck is stranded, the carrier and customer suffer losses of approximately $ 1,000.
“In addition, the release costs for truck drivers who have become victims of the security attacks are between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000 sometimes even for their lives, “said Mr Kalisa.
” Companies can only take advantage of the EAC’s common market if peace and security are guaranteed and thriving. “
That being said Rising business costs and uncertainties affecting trade in South Sudan has haunted regional businessmen for some time with no solution in sight as the government accuses armed groups they accuse of trading in their Nac hbarn to bother.
This week has proven how much it does the. costs region to trade with South Sudan than Uganda’s information, Comm The Minister for National Leadership, Dr. Chris Baryomusi, said President Yoweri Museveni and his South Sudanese counterpart had agreed to deploy drones along the highway to Juba.
This is on top of Juba’s deployment of his army and police as the government seeks armed attacks to exit the Nimule-Juba motorway. The Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) and South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) were deployed on the Juba-Nimule Highway To provide security. Juba Road, ”said a verbal note from the South Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation that the 6th delays on the Nimule-Juba will be eliminated. This also includes the clearing of overgrown street bushes.
“I spoke to three drivers returning from Juba who told me that in addition to the armed security escorts from Nimule-Juba, there is also a constant police and army presence with every black man is on the highway, ”a Ugandan security officer told The EastAfrican. However, with the highway secured, Ugandans living near the South Sudanese borders are seeking reassurances as the state of lawlessness spills over into South Sudan.
On August 29, the Ugandan parliament was informed that two boys and a girl were shot dead by unknown armed men in attacks on the Ewafa community in Alibabito subdistrict, Moyo district.
And while the governments of Kampala and Nairobi persist with Juba Solutions Due to road insecurity, South Sudan’s largest opposition group, the National Salvation Front (NAS), has denied allegations that it was behind the chaos and looted cargo on the country’s major highways.
In an interview with The EastAfrican on Thursday Describing the allegations as false, NAS spokesman Samuel Suba said, “These are just allegations, we are not working or doing such operations and we have no intention for this particular strategy. “
Talking about the problem, said the Secretary General of the East African Community, Dr. Peter Mathuki, despite the challenges facing Rwanda, South Sudan and their EAC neighbors, efforts will continue to ensure the free movement of goods, people and services.
“The Secretariat wrote a letter to President Salva Kiir and by Thursday, the trucks were transported to South Sudan, “he said.
” The EAC Secretariat has also mandated the governments of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi to address the issues related solve with the transport of goods. Sometimes we get involved bilaterally, “he added.
However, he attributed the failure or slow movement of goods to a number of factors, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and internal political challenges.
“Covid-19 had a negative impact on the region between 2020 and early 2021, but there is a recovery and intra-regional trade has increased immensely, particularly between Tanzania and Kenya,” said Dr. Mathuki.
Differences between Rwanda and Uganda, their common border at Gatuna, the most important transit point for goods and people, has been closed since February 2020.
Goods were moved between Burundi and Rwanda slowly since former President Pierre Nkurunziza accused Rwanda of supporting the failed 2015 coup. But the diplomatic engagement between the two countries has improved the situation immensely.
However, Tanzania has solved the challenges related to the free movement of goods to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.