Last Thursday, Uganda government and development partners formally handed over the new Elegu One Stop Border Post to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) – the agency charged with managing all the country’s borders.
This technical handover was graced by representatives from Uganda, South Sudan and development partners.
Costing up to about USD 10 million, the Elegu one stop border post (OSBP) was funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) through TradeMark East Africa and government of Uganda.
To many, the completion and consequent handover of this vital facility is a new beginning that will further improve trade between Uganda and South Sudan, which is by the way already massive with the latter ranking as the former’s second biggest exports destination.
According to statistics from the central bank, Uganda in the 2017/18 financial year alone exported goods worth USD 311.34 million to South Sudan compared to USD 14.54 million of imports from the same country. Uganda’s exports to South Sudan included informal exports worth USD 54.17m in the same period.
Furthermore, border records indicate that over 300 cargo trucks are cleared at the Elegu-Nimule border everyday. Plus, there are more than 1000 informal cross border traders operating in the same area.
In a brief interview with traders and truck drivers at the Elegu market, many were very positive that this milestone infrastructure would facilitate trade through reducing clearance times and increasing collaboration between the two neighbors.
“ It is the first of its kind. Our biggest problem has always been floods at the clearance point and delayed clearance. But we have been told that the Elegu border post will solve these issues. We are optimistic that business is changing for the better,” Mr Nyero Daniel, an informal trader noted.
Meanwhile Ms Molly Andego, a cross border trader noted that now that the infrastructure is in place, it should be equipped with all facilities that are in other OSBPs across the region.
“ We thank everyone that contributed to this. It has taken long but it is finally here. We expect that at the soonest, this Elegu border post will be fitted with all systems and resources like they are in Busia and Mutukula border posts.”
Slow Movement on South Sudan side.
Nonetheless, while the Elegu border post is ready to facilitate trade, the Nimule side is not. In functionality, a one stop border post connects two countries and as such, must have presence at both sides of the border, in this case Elegu for Uganda and Nimule for South Sudan.
Unfortunately however, even though DFID and TradeMark EA are committed to constructing the required infrastructure in Nimule, pockets of instability in South Sudan have delayed the process.
In a recent interview, Ms Damali Ssali, the Ag. Country Director TradeMark East Africa, Uganda noted that “For Nimule, due to the crisis is South Sudan; construction of the refugee reception area is underway. When peace returns in South Sudan, and funding is available, the Nimule border will be fully constructed.”
But according to Hon Mou Mou Athian Kuol, the undersecretary in South Sudan’s ministry of Trade, Industries and East African Community affairs, the recently signed peace agreement between H.E Salva Kiir and former Vice President – Hon Riek Machar will last and thus the construction of the Nimule border post will be fast-tracked.
Hon. Mou Mou Athian Kuol further promised that together with the S Sudan cabinet, they are going to make sure that Ugandan Traders are not mistreated in S Sudan.
“I have noted the issues about continuous mistreatment of Ugandan Traders by our people of South Sudan. As soon as I go back to South Sudan, I am going to table these issues to my bosses in the cabinet. I promise that this will be addressed. There is no reason for mistreating people that bring goods and services to us. We are all in business and we need each other,” Hon Mou Kuol noted.
The Elegu OSBP is among the over ten one stop border posts constructed by TradeMark East Africa in the East African Community. The others include; Mirama Hills Uganda / Kagitumba Rwanda, Busia Kenya/ Busia Uganda, Malaba Kenya / Malaba Uganda, Taveta Kenya / Holili Tanzania, Mutukula Tanzania / Mutukula Uganda, Kobero Burundi/ Kabanga Tanzania and Tunduma Tanzania.