One stop border post for East Africa on cards

As new law comes into effect

A law that will speed up transit between EAC countries through 'one-stop-borders' will be coming into effect.
Kenya Border Crossing

The clearance of goods and people across East Africa will soon be done through a single border transaction after two proposed laws come into force.

This follows the drafting of a bill by the East African Community (EAC) aimed at the realisation of the one-stop-border-post (OSBP) concept to ease free movement of goods and people.

OSBPs have long been the objective of the Organisation of African Unity member states, including South Africa, and discussed at many summits, intra-African trade conferences and exhibitions for many years.

But so far , it has been just talk with not even South Africa pushing the issue very hard. After all South Africa would like to remain the gateway to Africa for as long as possible.

The OSBP Bill 2012 to be debated in the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in Kigali, Rwanda, this week, could strengthen East Africa’s position as an alternative and perhaps faster gateway as it is expected to streamline traffic across borders by reducing the time taken to cross from one country to another.

It is estimated that a truck from Mombasa in Kenya to Kampala, the Ugandan capital takes on average of five days with 19 hours spent to get clearance at the border.

Estimates are that a reduction of one hour at the border can save the region about R65 million a year.

The Bill outlines, among other things, the conduct of border controls, application of criminal laws, conduct of officers manning the OSBPs and provision and harmonisation of facilities in the control zones.

Others are institutional arrangements of the OSBPs and dispute resolution.  Also to be debated  is the EAC Vehicle Load Control Bill 2012.

But the new EAC laws will have to be harmonised with the national laws of each partner State.

Over 24 OSBPs are under construction within the five EAC countries with support from Trade Mark East Africa, a Japanese international co-operation agency among other donors. 

Legislators have cautioned that the law should have an implementation time frame, while the EAC Director of Infrastructure, Philip Wambugu, has had to allay fears that two border posts at Suam (Kenya-Uganda border) and Oloitoktok were not named in the schedule.

Partner states are supposed to implement one border processing arrangements by setting up control zones at their respective border posts.

"These control zones shall be arranged that for each direction of travel, border controls shall be carried out in the state of arrival," reads the Border Bill in part. 

The Vehicle Load Control Bill on the other hand aims to make provision for the control of vehicle loads, harmonised enforcement and make institutional arrangements for the regional trunk road network within the community. 

The bill points out that overloading of vehicles is one of the major causes of road destruction in the region and seeks it to introduce instant fines for drivers who overload.

The bill also provides that a transporter operating a vehicle of a gross weight of 3 500kg or more must present such a vehicle to be weighed at every weighing station on the road.

The Bill sets the permissible maximum gross vehicle weight at 56 metric tonnes provided the vehicle has seven axles. 

The EAC is considered one of the most important regional blocs on the African continent and became centre of an international investor spotlight last year which was in part due to the discoveries of both oil and gas.

The region is globalising at a rapid pace. In 2010 alone, the value of the EAC’s total trade with the world was
R339.4 billion double the R160.5 billion achieved in 2005.

Intra-EAC trade, an accurate measure of the EAC experiment in quantitative terms, also doubled between 2005 and 2010 from R20 billion to R37.5 billion respectively.

It may explain United States President Barack Obama’s surprise decision to send 100 military advisers to the Central African Republic and Uganda – an interesting shift to a constant American aversion to put troops on the ground in Africa, according to one East African observer.

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