Uganda’s decision to waive work permit fees follows similar moves by Kenya and Rwanda.The fees waiver is one of the latest reforms implemented by the three East African Community nations in their bid to reduce the cost of doing business and speeding up the movement of goods and people.
The three presidents met in the Rwandan capital to sign off on a Single Customs Territory (SCT) for the three countries. President Silva Kiir of South Sudan also attended the event, which was a follow-up of earlier infrastructure summits in Entebbe and Mombasa. Points actioned are:
1. Implementation of SCT will reduce the cost of doing business further by ensuring that tax on goods imported into these countries will be paid at Mombasa Port and trucks will be weighed only on crossing the borders. Already, the reduction in the number of roadblocks and weighbridges has reduced the time and cost of transporting goods from Mombasa to the interior.
2. Transit time for containers from Mombasa to Kampala and Kigali has dropped from 18 days to five and from 22 days to eight days. This is expected to fall further, reducing the turn-around time for trucks and hence increasing profits for their owners.
3. The cost of transporting a 20-foot container from Mombasa to Kigali is also expected to reduce further by half due to increased efficiencies across the entire route. The efficiencies wrung from the route in such a short time encourage optimistic observers to believe the region has seen nothing yet.
President Kagame said, “there is still a long way to go but we are encouraged by the progress made so far”.
One of those plans is the construction of the standard-gauge railway from Mombasa to Kigali through Kampala whose ground breaking is expected next month. A spur to Juba, South Sudan, will be added to the project once the country confirms its interest. Though the final cost of the entire project has yet to be established, the agreement is that money will be pooled, with each country paying for its part of the railway network.
Equally significant is the six-lane road being promoted by TradeMark East Africa that would run parallel to the standard-gauge railway. Hopes are high that the regional governments will buy the idea of constructing the road considering that the Northern Corridor network is already congested as it is handling higher traffic than it was designed to handle.
Yet another infrastructure project that has the potential to be a game changer is the implementation of the Lamu Port, South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project, which Uganda has joined.