Government and TradeMark fast-track efforts to revamp Malaba Border Post.

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Nick Ntulume.

A few years ago, travellers and traders alike at both Busia and Malaba border points spent several hours, sometimes days processing their entry/exist clearances at these borders.

Such delays were occasioned by underdevelopment of the borders’ infrastructure, coupled with disorganized and uncoordinated processes implemented by both Ugandan and Kenyan officials.

However, this is no longer the case at Busia thanks to the construction of a functional One Stop Border Point (OSBP) linking Uganda and Kenya. The establishment of this OSBP was fully bankrolled by TradeMark East Africa, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Government of Uganda.

One Stop Border Post refers to the ‘legal and institutional framework, facilities, and associated procedures that enable goods, people, and vehicles to stop in a single facility in which they undergo necessary controls following applicable regional and national laws to exit one state and enter the adjoining state.’

Over 12 and 80 OSBPs have been planned and/ or implemented in East Africa and Africa respectively. Busia, Mutukula and Mirama Hills are operational in Uganda while Mpondwe, Elegu/Nimule and Malaba are under development.  All these were funded by DFID through TradeMark East Africa.

With a model OSBP in place, Busia is currently ranked as the most efficient and effective border post across the East African region.

Nonetheless, the same can’t be said of Malaba border point. Even though Malaba is the main entry point for Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and eastern DR Congo imports, it remains under-developed; an issue that continues to affect trade across the region.

As of 2016, the government of Uganda and World Bank were working on modernising the Malaba border. But these works ended prematurely after the World Bank ‘cancelled the loan/grant’ for the completion of this project. This unfortunate development left the government helpless as it was unable to provide funds for the much needed infrastructure at Malaba.

As such, the Malaba project stalled for more than a year until a few months ago, when the government through the works and transport ministry got a new partner to complete what it had started with World Bank some years ago.

“The construction of a modern Malaba facility was originally funded by World Bank and the government. The World Bank loan came to an end but the access road was not completed. We already had a contractor on site, but because we couldn’t pay them, the contractor left the road incomplete. Due to lack of funds to continue with the project, all that we had started stalled until this year when TradeMark came on board,” Hon Monica Azuba Ntege, the minister of Works and Transport noted during a tour of both the Busia and Malaba borders yesterday. The tour was part of the National Oversight Committee (NOC) meeting for Trademark Uganda, TradeMark Kenya and stakeholders held on the same day.,”

Hon Azuba added: “I personally wrote to TradeMark. I am happy to note that after our engagements, TradeMark and its DFID partners agreed to fund the completion of the project. As already seen on ground during our inspection tour this morning, I am happy to report that the government has fulfilled all the financing conditions and construction works for the access road have resumed and are on schedule for completion by December 2018. I would like to thank the management of TradeMark and its Financiers for supporting the development and integration of the EAC.”

With more than USD 2 million provided by DFID through TradeMark EA now available, construction of Malaba access roads is in high gear while land for constructing of staff homes and a modern parking facility has been secured too.

” I would like to emphasize the importance of Malaba border because it is the main entry point for Uganda in terms of imports and also for the region – Rwanda, DRC, and South Sudan,” Moses Sabiiti, the TradeMark East Africa Ag.Senior Director Country Programmes said, adding;

“” In terms of other infrastructure at Malaba, we have talked to our partners, particularly- DFID. They are willing to come in, not just to do the Malaba access roads but also to ensure that customs at Malaba operate on a 24 hour basis. 24 hour operations make border posts very efficient thus bringing about a seamless operation for exports & imports. We are also going to work on URA Malaba staff houses & parking to make sure our exports & imports are well managed.”

On completion, all OSBPs are handed over to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) for management and maintenance.  According to Dicksons Collins Kateshumbwa, the URA commissioner customs, the tax body allocates an annual budget for ensuring that these OSBP remain in great shape so that they can continue to play a key role in tax collection.

He said: “We have an annual plan and budget for managing these border posts. Busia, Mutukula, Katuna, Mirama Hills and all the other are managed by URA customs team. Allow me to also note that all major border points in Uganda have tarmacked roads currently; thus making transport to and from Uganda very good. We thank the works ministry for this.”