At long last the multi-billion shillings One Stop Border Post (OSBP) facilities financed by the World Bank were officially opened and services launched by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.
The OSBP facilities which have drastically changed the face of the Kenya – Uganda border entry and exit points have also virtually revolutionized the way of doing mass heavy duty cargo business across the border – particularly import export trade.
Though the big fish involved in doing this business may be laughing all the way to the bank considering the money and time they are saving, many others are being rendered jobless with their incomes consigned to oblivion.
Indeed when Presidents Kenyatta and Museveni (Uganda) opened the One-Stop Border Post on a recent Saturday, there were tell-tale concerns that clearing agents will be rendered jobless.
[wp_ad_camp_2] The two Presidents travelled to Busia from Kampala for the ceremony after attending the 19th East African Community Summit of Heads of State in Uganda. The Border post is one of the measures Kenya has taken to ease movement of goods and people within the EAC region.
The concept combines two national border controls into one, thereby reducing the time it takes to clear goods and people across the shared borders. This reduces costs and the overall time it takes to transport goods within the region.
This emerged after repeated complaints especially from Uganda about the length time or particularly days it took to have goods destined for that country from the port of Mombasa to reach their destinations with prolonged delays at border points for customs clearance not to mention those experienced from the roads.
The first One-Stop Border Post to be commissioned under the EAC integration plan was at Taveta/Holili on the Kenya-Tanzania border.
It is indeed instrumental to note that while closing the summit the previous day, Museveni urged East Africans to embrace integration to boost their economy. He told them to deepen their social, cultural and economic ties to accelerate their prosperity.
The President was widely quoted saying: “We should integrate in order to boost our bargaining power on the global market.”
Ahead of the launch, clearing agents at the Busia border expressed fear that they will lose their jobs. Their chairman Joseph Ouma said they will not benefit from the OSBP because most of their export documents will be handled by Ugandans and Rwandans.
Speaking to the press at the border last Friday, Ouma reported that the number of clearing agents had dropped from 300 to 100. Ouma further said that more than 300 trucks which pass through Busia customs are packed on the Ugandan side.
He added that the creation of the OSBP has resulted in the shutting down of companies which were handling export goods. “We are appealing to the government to review the customs laws so we don’t lose our jobs because of the facility,” he added
The agents’ chairman accused officers of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) of sleeping on their jobs instead of serving them and the public but in a quick rejoinder, the KRA Commissioner of Customs Services said that if anything, the OSBP will create more job opportunities and improve efficiency.
“I don’t think it will put people out of their jobs. Business flow will be advanced and everyone will be happy,” Julius Musyoki said.
He noted the OSBP is a very instrumental trade tool as it will reduce fraud cases, such as those on duplication, that have been witnessed at the entry point. “It is cost efficient. Our traders are happy with the flow and efficiency in Busia, which is one of the busiest entry points,” he added.
It is meant to improve efficiency in immigration clearance and ease the movement of goods and people. The customs facility comprises offices and space for immigration processes and verification; warehousing and cold rooms for the goods traded across the border; and facilities for expediting trade.
The first one-stop border post to be commissioned under the East African Community integration plan was at Taveta/Holili on the Kenya-Tanzania border. [wp_ad_camp_2]
The one-stop border posts aim at easing trade in the region and reducing the time it takes to move goods across the EAC. The region plans to set up similar facilities in all border points.
President Kenyatta said the commitment of the region’s leaders has led to progress in the integration process which at one time collapsed in the mid-1970s only to be revived once again by President Museveni and his retired Tanzanian counterparts Daniel Arap Moi (Kenya) and Benjamin Mkapa.
He declared: “I am glad that the people and the leadership of the East African Community have taken this point to heart. Wherever I go in the region, I find a new appreciation of the importance of integration, and a new commitment to bringing the people of East Africa together.”
President Museveni said economic integration will bring prosperity, security and unity in the region.
Leaders who attended the event included Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamon’g, Senator Amos Wako, EALA Speaker Martin Ngonga, CAS nominee Ababu Namwamba, and CSs Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs), James Macharia (Transport) and Peter Munya (EAC).