African Union (AU) High Representative for Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga wants countries in East and Central African region to drastically reduce the number of roadblocks and weighbridges on the roads to ease the movement of goods and services.
Raila, who spoke while addressing the 31st meeting of the Council of Ministers during the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) executive meeting in Mombasa, said it is time regional states practically actualized paperwork plans and swing into action.
“Why should a truck from Kigali to Mombasa and vice-versa forced to go through over 55 barriers on the way, some spend close to Sh100,000 as handouts, these are some of the things we need to completely deal with to promote regional trade,” said Odinga.
Tariff barriers at boarder points have continued to deal a big blow to the realization of free trade within regional countries, and the AU envoy wants the regional transport ministers to deal with it.
“Inter-Africa trade stands at 15 percent, far too small compared to Southern America that stands at 25 percent. We need to stop talking and swing into action and practically make things happen. Trade barriers in the borders is something we need to deal with once and for all,” said Odinga.
The former Prime Minister decried the poor state of infrastructure especially the poor rail network in regional states and road network. He also called for the removal of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to facilitate trade.
‘‘We are witnessing the resurgence of non-tariff barriers in virtually all partner states,” he said.
Non-tariff barriers are trade barriers that restrict imports or exports of goods or services through mechanisms other than the simple imposition of tariffs.
The AU special envoy said all non-tariff barriers should be removed in an effort to cut down on transportation time and reduce the cost of moving goods and services across the region.
Ugandan Minister for Transport Katumba Wamala said Uganda solely depends of Kenya’s Mombasa port for its imports and exports adding eradication of road barriers along the Northern Corridor would boost economy.
“Uganda receives 90 percent of its import cargo through Mombasa port and we have experienced a lot of delays especially for cargo coming through the road and this is not good for the economy,” said Wamala.
The council meeting was attended by Transport Ministers from the region among them James Macharia (Kenya), Luk Jok (South Sudan), Jean Bosco (Burundi), Richard Masozera (Rwanda) and Bizimungu Mubare (DRC).
By Hussein Abdullahi