By: Peterson Tumwebaze
The local business community wants the forth coming northern corridor heads of state summit in Nairobi, Kenya to focus on addressing the challenge of cross border trade barriers. The consensus was reached during a meeting of the business community to discuss barriers hindering cross border trade ahead of the summit, yesterday.
According to the traders, the barriers include, a high cost of air transport, double taxation, and laxity in the implementation of treaties agreed under the EAC common market protocol and single customs territory. They expect the 11th northern corridor summit on October 17, to largely focus on these challenges to boost regional trade.
Benjamin Gasamagera, the chairman of Private Sector Federation (PSF), said the challenges have much to do with the pace at which partner states are implementing the East African Common Market Protocol and the single customs territory including those under the northern corridor project.
“We anticipate that all partner states will respect and fully implement these treaties as was agreed during the previous summits,” he said.
He also urged local companies to take advantage of the summit, to forge more trade partnerships and market the country’s export potential in the region.
The common market protocol was established in 2010. It provides for free movement of goods and services, labour, and capital to boost trade and investments in the region.
To fast track progress, the heads of state last June formed a Northern Corridor Integration Projects special committee to oversee the implementation of these programmes.
However, according to the business community, some partner states are not moving fast enough to implement some of these provisions.
High cost of air transport
Denis Karera, the East African Business Council chairperson, said, the summit should equally discuss in detail the need to reduce the cost of air transport across the region.
“Travelling by air is still very expensive in East Africa; we must therefore find ways of bringing down these costs to facilitate regional trade and boost integration,” Karera noted.
The northern corridor states recently agreed to expedite the process of preparing and signing the Bilateral Airspace Service Agreements (BASA) to facilitate harmonisation of air space within the region.
However, the business community wants the agreements to be implemented as fast as possible to reduce the cost of doing trade.
Tapping into regional infrastructure projects
Charles Ngarambe, the Managing director of Kigali Bus Services, said the meeting should equally focus on inclusive participation in regional infrastructure projects.
“We would like to see more Rwandan companies taking a lead on some of these projects so we can benefit from integration,” Ngarambe said.
And this we can be achieved by embracing public-private sector partnerships, Ngarambe added. The Northern Corridor is the transport network that links the landlocked countries of Uganda Rwanda, South Sudan