Between February 20 and March 2, 2018, three major events happened in Uganda.
First was the Joint East African Community -EAC heads of state retreat on Infrastructure, Health Financing and Development hosted at Speke Resort Munyonyo from February 21-23. This was attended by presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania and Salva Kiir of South Sudan. Rwanda and Burundi presidents sent representatives.
Then came the commissioning of the Busia One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) on February 24, presided over by Presidents; Yoweri Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta.
Lastly, from February 28 to March 1, the East African Trade Development Forum was hosted by the ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives at Speke Resort, Munyonyo, with Uganda’s vice president – Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi – the guest of honour.
At these three back-to-back events, there were two common features. One was of East African governments working together to develop the region and accelerate EAC integration. The other was TradeMark East Africa!
These three events are just examples of the work that TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), supported by its donor partners, has done in Uganda and the entire EAC since its 2010.
“TMEA is an East African not-for profit Company Limited by Guarantee established in 2010 to support the growth of trade – both regional and international – in East Africa. TradeMark East Africa is focused on ensuring gains from trade result in tangible gains for East Africans,” an introductory message on the TradeMark website states.
True to this, TMEA has over the past years, using funds from donors mainly United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), facilitated trade across the region. Its other funders include USAID and governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Canada and Belgium.
SEVEN YEARS OF SERVICE.
From 2010 to 2017, TMEA implemented its phase-one across the East African region. In Uganda, it worked with the government to improve trade through investing in enabling infrastructure. Top on the list of the projects it supported in Uganda was the establishment of the Electronic Single Window – a paperless platform that enables traders to have their goods cleared online, thus saving time and money plus eliminating physical contact and corruption.
In a related development, government of Uganda, with support from TMEA, is in the final stages of developing a one-stop portal for export, import and transit information in Uganda. ‘This portal is expected to provide traders with the necessary information to enable them undertake transactions on a single electronic window. The two platforms are, therefore, complementary.’
TMEA also supported the ministry of Trade to implement a mobile USSD and web-based Non-Tariff Barrier reporting system which facilitates the reporting and resolution of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) among trade facilitating institutions. As a result, over 86% resolutions of all NTBs reported through the system have been resolved, a fact that has in turn reduced on the delays and costs of moving goods in and out of Uganda across trading member states.
Uganda’s comprehensive Cross Border Trade Strategy was also commissioned in 2017. Supported by TMEA, the strategy aims at simplifying trade processes for informal traders, especially the women and youths at different border points through information availability and digital empowerment.
Working closely with Uganda Revenue Authority, TMEA also facilitated the implementation of modernized customs business systems such as Customs Management System (ASYCUDA World), Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) and Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS). ‘Since their establishment, these customs modernisation programmes have contributed to a reduction in transit costs from $3,390 to $1,176 and reduced average transit time from 34 days in 2010 to 13 days in 2016. They also reduced clearance time from three days to one day for authorised economic operators (AEO) companies (80 per cent of customs revenue) and collectively contributed to a 48 per cent increase in customs revenue.’
TMEA also supported the construction of three One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) in Uganda: Mutukula OSBP with Tanzania, Busia OSBP with Kenya, Mirama Hills OSBP with Rwanda. ‘These border posts are operating under one-stop controls, which means that a transporter or traveller clears only once, on one side of the border. Since their establishment, at least 50 per cent reduction in border clearance time has been reported by úsers.
Lastly, between 2010 and 2017, TMEA supported improvements in testing by Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), set up a Logistics Advocacy Platform and upgraded the Quality Standards for maize – working closely with the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI).
In a recent address, Amelia Kyambadde, the minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives explained that trade is one of the major pillars in the East African integration process. She applauded TradeMark East Africa for being a reliable EAC trade facilitator, not a mere donor.
“Trade facilitation is critical to the enhancement of competitiveness in the EAC region. Between 2010 and 2017, EAC government ministries, departments and agencies, and private sector stakeholders have made significant efficiency gains in the management of ports and borders. For example, Mombasa Port has seen a 52 per cent reduction in import time and 59 per cent reduction in export time. Similarly, the Dar es Salaam port has seen a 28 per cent reduction in import time and 53 per cent reduction in export time,” Kyambadde said:
“There has been, on average, a decline of 50 per cent in the time it takes to cross borders. The key enablers have been better trade infrastructure – both hard (roads, ports, one-stop border posts), and soft (ICT for trade especially electronic single trade portals and cargo tracking); institutional building (modernisation of customs and revenue authorities); and private sector engagement. TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), her donor partners, the European Union and the governments of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Finland, Norway, the Unites States, and her implementing partners have played an important role in these achievements.”
While launching the Busia OSBP, presidents; Museveni of Uganda and Kenyatta of Kenya were in unison that minus a few improvements needed to make trade much better and safer, TMEA had done a great job for the whole region.
“I thank Trademark EA, President Kenyatta and the government of Kenya for this spirit of cooperation…..” President Museveni said.
Job Creation and Industrialization to dominate Phase Two.
Following the conclusion of the first phase, TMEA recently rolled out phase two, expected to run until 2023.
However, while in phase one TMEA prioritized trade facilitation, phase two will focus more on industrialization and job creation for mainly youths and women.
This change of tact was confirmed by Trademarks key principals. While addressing delegates at the East African Trade Development forum, held at Speke Resort Munyonyo, Mr Ali Mufuruki, the TradeMark EA board chair, noted that “in the second phase, we will focus on, not only the trade that comes in to East African region but also on the trade that is going out of East Africa. The second phase will focus on supporting the industrial agenda of the East African region.”
Further, Frank Matsaert, the TradeMark EA group CEO, noted at the same forum that across the East African region, TMEA’s focus in the next five years will be on value addition, job creation, youth and women empowerment.
“We want to help escalate the job creation process across the different sectors. We want to play our part with you in delivering this change across the region. We want to play a dynamic role in the future of East African Community. That is my vision for the future,” he said.
Additionally, Mr Moses Sabiiti, the TMEA country director, in a separate interview noted that: “In Mombasa we are already supporting people in the garment industry. In Rwanda, we have implemented a program promoting logistics. In Uganda, we are designing Gulu, Jinja and Busia hubs.”
He added: “Our aspiration budget is $100 million but we already have UK Pounds 25 million in the budget. We expect a little more from our other development partners.”
To achieve the job creation goal, TMEA will undertake several projects in Uganda.
Under its improved efficiency and capacity of transport and logistics networks plan, it will invest in OSBP improvement at Ntoroko and Goli (DRC), development of cross-border markets (Elegu and Busia), development of the Gulu Logistics Hub, transactional support on Jinja/Malaba private-public partnerships, support the transport funding policy and also invest in further development of Entebbe International Airport.
This will be in addition to more support to the already running projects such as UNBS and private sector quality improvement drives, advocating for a gender responsive trading environment, capacity building, championing regional trade integration and encouraging ICT and innovations, among others.
Sabiiti notes that the projects they are highlighting in phase two will also ensure quality assurance.
“Go to that market and see what is happening. People are literally cleaning the grain every day. Our grain, millions of tonnes are going to Kenya as chicken feed because of poor standards. Surely, we can do something about that. That is why together with the Ministry of Trade, we are working to set up the Border Export Zones where all this grain can be consolidated, cleaned and tested so that when it is exported to Kenya or any other country, it is of good quality and can get traders a better price. These Export zones will benefit all traders.”
“…in the second phase, we will do everything to help tea and coffee traders get earlier to the markets by implementing a trade innovation logistics platform. This means we are able to send our tea or coffee-related documents to the auction, then the coffee or tea will be auctioned even before the export reaches the market. This is how Brazilian coffee is hitting the market earlier than Ugandan coffee. If we can do this, then it will help the entire value chain.”
Considering that Uganda and the entire East African region is grappling with high unemployment and under-employment levels, TMEA is intervention is timely.
Unlike those that came before them, TradeMark must not just talk about job creation, but instead walk the talk. As TMEA rolls out phase two, we will keenly follow and share the results as they come through.
Uganda – EAC TRADE BLOC FACTS.
The East African Region ranks second as Uganda’s export destination after COMESA.
Exports: Uganda’s exports to EAC increased from $642.2m in 2014 to $711.3m in 2017. Uganda mainly exports coffee, tea and spices, cereals, tobacco, sugar, iron and steel.
Imports: Uganda’s imports from EAC have slightly dropped from $684.6m in 2014 to $530m in 2016. Uganda mainly imports salt, sulphur, lime and cement, iron and steel from the EAC region.
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