The East African Business Council (EABC) has called upon South Sudan to stop charging Visa entry fees on any East African Partner States and embrace the use of National Identity cards as a travelling document across the region.
“As it is now, South Sudan still charges visa fees to EAC citizens from EAC Partner States which do not have a bilateral agreement, with the country. We also urge South Sudan to join Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to use National IDs as travel documents,” said EABC CEO, Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki.
This follows EABC’s visit at the Nimule – Elegu One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) yesterday. EABC in collaboration with the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and the South Sudan Chamber of Commerce held a meeting with the Joint Border Management Committee, deliberating on sustainable solutions on issues affecting the flow of goods and movement of persons at the border post.
Dr. Mathuki also noted that only the Ugandan side of the OSBP is operational, and called for the full operationalization of the Nimule-Elegu OSBP. This is set to expedite the movement of goods and people and reduce transport costs across national boundaries.
South Sudan joined the East African Community in April 2016 making the country the newest member of the East African Community, it is also referred to as the youngest nation in Africa after gaining independence on 9 July 2011.
The impact of Covid-19 has seen the value of trade between Uganda and South Sudan decline. From January to September 2020, the value of trade between the two countries stood at $225.45 million while in January to September 2019, the value of trade stood at $243 .3 million, a drop of $17.8 Million.
EABC is also calling for the removal of the $50 Covid-19 testing fees, which cross border traders say is increasing their cost of doing business.
Last month, EABC also urged transporters in the region to also embrace the recently launched Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) to improve the truck turnaround time and allow Partner States to electronically share truck drivers’ COVID-19 test results, thus minimizing the need for multiple COVID-19 tests in a single trip.
Intra EAC trade is rebounding with Kenya’s exports to Uganda standing at $88 Million as in August 2020, a jump from $53.9 million in the same period last year. Uganda exports to Kenya stood at $46.9 million as of August 2020 a slight decline from $48.3 million recorded last year. (Uganda Bureau of Statistics).
Kenya’s key imports from Uganda include milk and cream, tobacco, cane electrical energy and plywood among other goods. On the other hand, Uganda’s imports from Kenya include palm oil and its fractions, iron or non-alloy steel, petroleum oils and salt among other goods
EABC also urged border officials to make information on the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) accessible to traders to enable them to benefit from the regional preferential treatment when importing or exporting goods within the region.
The Nimule-Elegu OSBP is the main border post between South Sudan and Uganda and the busiest land border in South Sudan where most goods imported from Uganda are processed. The OSBP has been recording an average of 160 trucks crossing the border daily.
Some of the major goods traded using the borders include; cereals, sugars and sugar confectionery, milling products, vegetable fats and oils, edible vegetables and beverages.
Speaking during the event, the traders also asked officials from the Ministry of East Africa Community in Uganda to engage the Ministry of Works and Transport, Uganda to come up with containment measures of the floods that continue to disrupt trade at the border.