As October kicks off, the year 2013 draws to a close with only two months left of it. While the year has no doubt had its ups and downs for each private citizen, the logistics industry has seen a lot of good unfold over the months passed.
Principal of these positive advancements was the passing of far reaching legislature, such as the One-Stop-Border-Posts (OSBP) Bill 2012, which was assented to by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in April, needing the signatures of the five East African heads of state. The OSBP, which addressed issues such as application of criminal laws under the law and conduct of border officers, also carefully detailed the path to eliminating border crossing delays.
Under the OSBP, countries sharing borders would put together a solitary checking point used by both countries, as opposed to the previous system of having to go through Kenyan border control then later Ugandan security while ferrying goods to our landlocked sister country. Within the same station, one would clear with immigration, customs and relevant authorities as they exit one country, then deal with inward clearing from the receiving country under one roof. This would dramatically slash waiting times in cargo clearance, prompting long traffic snarl ups to vanish.
Over twenty four such stations are meant to be completed at different areas of the five countries’ borders, with support in donations from international agencies. Once completed, border crossing will not only become cheaper and take less time, but will also be easier to enforce security measures with authorities from both countries working together to ensure nothing unsavory crosses to either side.
Our very own President Kenyatta also joined the effort to streamline logistical processes in the country, calling for a revamping of the port of Mombasa in July. This was manifested in an announcement from the KRA, stating that neighboring Uganda and Rwanda would be allowed to set up clearing offices at the port of Mombasa, enabling them to collect taxes directly, freeing cargo from having to make numerous stops at borders and checking points. Not only would this make the freighting process much faster and decongest the Mombasa port, it would also ensure no goods got by without paying necessary taxes by taking advantage of the inter-agency “confusion”.
While positive in some ways, the move drew criticism from the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, which argued that it would be detrimental to Kenya in the long run. The services set to be taken over by Ugandan and Rwandese authorities would mean massive loss of jobs in Kenyan clearing and forwarding firms, companies involved in freighting and of course, warehousing service workers.
While some port of Mombasa personnel contemplated the looming threat of unemployment, clearing and forwarding agents at the Busia-Malaba post on the Kenya-Uganda border began to equip themselves with beneficial training. In May this year, KRA teamed up with the Ugandan Revenue Authority, to enroll about four hundred staff for the East Africa Customs Freight Forwarding Practicing Center course, one of the most rigorous in the region.
Run by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), this training initiative seeks to develop human resources in the industry and equip them with skills necessary to efficiently match demand at the single busiest Kenya-Uganda crossing point.
With the East African community set to prosper and expand in trade in 2013, Kenya’s relationship with neighboring Sudan continues to develop as well. In July this year, Kenya, the World Bank and Sudan agreed to be involved in constructing a road that links the Port of Mombasa directly to Juba, as opposed to the pre-existing route through Kampala.
This link would reduce the hassle of having to take cargo through Kenya-Uganda and Uganda-Sudan border checkpoints. Kenyan manufacturers also stand to enjoy great benefits by dethroning Uganda as chief exporter of goods to Sudan, a reassuring addition to the Kenyan economy.
Ten months into 2013, the logistics industry is having a busy year and key players are achieving so much in such a short time. I can’t help but ask: how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Do have a productive October.