A team of key public and private sectors stake holders operating in Kenya - including Northern Corridor secretariat, KRA, KPA, Kenya Police Service, Ugandan Representative, DRC Representative, Representative of the South Sudan Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, KIFWA and KTA has completed a weeklong survey of the Northern Corridor transit section between Eldoret and Juba.
The Northern Corridor encompasses the transport infrastructure and equipment served by the Port of Mombasa and used by the traffic to and from the territories of the contracting parties namely Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC and now South Sudan and other neighboring states.
The Northern Corridor Coordination Authority, established under the Article 6 of the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Agreement (NCTTA) and comprising the Council of Ministers, the Executive Committee, the Specialized Committees, Public Private Partnership Committee and the Permanent Secretariat, is tasked with among others; exercising jurisdiction over the coordination and implementation of the corridor activities which include transforming the Corridor into a Development Corridor which, in addition to offering safe, fast and competitive transport and transit services that secure regional trade, stimulates investment, encourages sustainable development and poverty reduction.
The corridor surveys form part of the ongoing efforts by the regional governments to make the Northern Corridor efficient and affordable in order to attract business to the region. Poor infrastructure and lengthy port and border processes have been identified as the foremost non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade in East Africa. The survey was organized by the Permanent Secretariat of the Northern Corridor to identify and address the challenges faced by the users and operators along the Northern Corridor routes considered to be among the most expensive in Africa.
The survey delegation led by Mr.Emile Sinzumusi, head of programme for customs and trade facilitation at the Northern Corridor secretariat, visited Eldoret pipeline and railway station, Eldoret ICD, Malaba railway station, Malaba police, Malaba customs and immigration offices in Kenya and Uganda, Mbale weighbridge and railway station, Lira railway station, Elegu customs and immigration offices, Nimule immigration office, Nesitu Customs Checkpoint and Juba Port.
Among some of the key challenges identified during the survey include inadequate infrastructure and human capital at the border posts in Malaba and Nimule, poor state of roads especially in Northern Uganda, high incidences of highway extortion at police checks in South Sudan, failure by drivers to present requisite travel documents at border immigration offices, uncoordinated and slow implementation of the East African Community load control law and insecurity.
A visit at the Malaba Customs offices revealed lack of a holding yard, a warehouse and a scanner for verification. The KRA officers decried the delays occasioned by the ongoing construction work of the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) which has pushed them to undertake the cargo verification exercise on the Ugandan side of the Border. "Transit truckers have had to contend with delays at the border due to operational inefficiencies largely caused by the ongoing construction of the Malaba OSBP and inadequate staffing of the customs office," lamented a KRA officer.
The OSBPs are meant to reduce the number of stops in cross border trade and other transactions by combining border controls activities of the agencies at a single location in each direction for each one stop border crossing. The construction of Malaba (Kenya) OSBP, envisaged to be complete in 4-6 months, is expected to greatly reduce the time taken in border clearance processes. Uganda is yet to commence construction of the OSBP on their side of the Malaba border while there are no indications of plans to construct an OSBP at the Elegu -Nimule Border.
The survey team also encountered bad roads especially on the Gulu -Atiak -Nimule stretch in Northern Uganda. The road is impassable especially when it rains with trucks getting stuck in the mud for up to two weeks. According to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), works are underway to upgrade the 104 km road to bitumen standard at a cost of Ushs.89, 667,759,288. The construction work was commissioned by President Museveni and is expected to be completed in August 2014. The Gulu-Atiak -Nimule road is part of Uganda's national road network and contributes significantly to the economic prosperity of Northern Uganda. It forms an important international link with Sudan, being the most direct route between Uganda’s Capital City, Kampala and Juba in South Sudan. Upon completion, the new road is expected to reduce vehicle operating costs and transit time for haulage