Arusha. A unified clearing facility at Rusumo on the Tanzania/Rwanda border registered an increased volume of traded goods even at the height of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020/21.
The One Stop Border Post (OSBP) operated by the two countries, saw goods worth Sh51.4 billion exiting Tanzania to Rwanda and DR Congo during the period. In 2015/16, transiting goods passing through the border line to the two neigbours were worth some Sh34.5 million, according to a recent assessment by the regional law makers.
The value of the volume of goods which entered Tanzania from Rwanda and DR Congo via the shared border facility shot up to Sh9.8 billion for 2020/21 from Sh5.6 billion in 2015/16.
The rising trade statistics are contained in an assessment report by the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) Committee on Communication, Trade and Investment after a recent visit to the site.
The unified Rusumo OSBP, a juxtaposed border post, was launched in April 2016 by the Heads of State of Tanzania and Rwanda and operationalized later the same year.
The facility is among more than a dozen already in operation throughout the region at key border points of the East African Community (EAC) partner states. They were set up to facilitate the cross-border movement of people and goods and hence boost cross border trade for the seven members of the economic bloc.
Traffic through the Rusumo OSBP, in particular, was seriously impacted by the pandemic as Rwanda - unlike Tanzania-closed her borders for incoming traffic for some time during 2020/21.
However, the lifting of the travel restrictions, according to the report, has seen the number of trucks cleared to enter Tanzania daily rising to 285 from 90 and travellers to 1,700 from 500.
The time of clearing trucks has been reduced to 30 minutes “and to only one minute for travellers who don’t carry luggage”, said a copy of the report seen by The Citizen.
While clearance fees have been reduced to facilitate free movement of traders with certificates of compliance,small traders are facilitated through a simplified border clearance procedure. On the Rwanda side, the time for clearing one truck has been reduced from four hours to only 30 minutes after the operationalisation of the shared border post.
In normal situation, the OSBP clears cross border movement of 1,200 travelers, 320 entering trucks and 250 exiting (to Tanzania) trucks on a daily basis.
However, the lawmakers decried a host of challenges facing the border facility on both sides of the Kagera River that forms the borderline between Tanzania and Rwanda.
These include differences in tax rates and other charges which are not yet harmonized within the EAC framework, creating confusion to the traders. This occurs on both sides of the border.
The law on Foreign Vehicles Transit Charges by the two countries has also not been harmonized, again impacting on the free cross border movement of goods and people.
While Rwanda grants 14 days free of charge with possible extension at the cost of $30 per 30 days, Tanzania grants only seven days free of charge and charges $ 20 per 30 days for any extension of stay.