BY JULIUS MUSYOKI
The recent Kenya-Uganda joint presidential launch of the Busia One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) marked a significant stride in the achievement of regional integration and trade facilitation in the East African Community.
Projects that have recently received such high-level attention in the region are few and far apart. In Kenya, only the launch of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Lamu Port, South Sudan and Ethiopia Transport (Lapset) corridor easily come to mind.
But why, you may ask, does a border crossing point deserve such high profile interest? To understand why, it is important to know where we have come from.
The one-stop border post is a welcome departure from the two-stop border post model characterized by a variety of paperwork, strenuous border clearance procedures, and duplication of exit/entry procedures which cause delays and increase the cost of doing business.
In the traditional border practice, a user of a border point, who could be an importer, exporter or a traveler, needed to obtain exit clearance from one side of the border before moving over to the other side for entry clearance. These border crossing procedures depicted a glaring disconnect among EAC member countries in clearance of cargo.
The OSBP concept has no doubt alleviated this situation by improving border crossing speed and efficiency thus reducing barriers to trade and improving business competitiveness. The major reason for establishing OSBPs along transport corridors is to expedite the movement of goods and people, and to reduce transport costs across national boundaries.
At an OSBP, passengers, cargo and vehicles stop once to process border crossing formalities in order to exit one partner state and enter the other. All border formalities and the processing of documentation for goods and passengers are carried out in a single clearance hall for exit from one partner state and entry into the adjoining State. If cargo inspection is necessary or required, it is done at once through joint inspection involving all interested border agencies from both partner states at the same time and location.
The efficiency of an OSBP is enhanced by redesigning and improving physical infrastructure, procedures and processes, in order to facilitate expeditious movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit and persons across borders.
It has also been observed that through OSBPs, there has been improved cross-border security, a reduction in revenue leakages as well better resource utilization through improved cross-border cooperation and sharing of resources and intelligence.
National governments stand to benefit from the OSBP model through improved collection of trade taxes associated with efficiency gains, efficient borders that facilitate international trade, investment, and economic growth, promotion of economic competiveness and promotion of better international relations between countries.
To the road transport operators, shippers and customs agents, the OSBP model has resulted in a reduction of delays at borders and in operating costs, greater asset utilization in respect of truck turnaround times, predictability of border and transit procedures and faster processing of documents. It also comes with savings in the cost of inputs, increased reliability of shipments enabling reduced inventories and reduced capital tied up in logistics through just-in-time delivery.
At the OSBPs, travelers and tourists are now experiencing reduced time spent at borders as well as predictable, simplified, transparent and harmonized border procedures.
Employee motivation for border staff has also improved through the use of simplified and harmonized procedures as well as from working with better facilities such as buildings, equipment, furniture. This translates to increased productivity.
The implementation of Busia OSBP, for instance, has resulted in a reduction of border crossing clearance time by an average of about 80 per cent, strengthened cooperation between Kenya and Uganda, and improved coordination all the border regulatory agencies led by the respective revenue authorities. The Busia OSBP is among 13 similar facilities that have been put across the region since the enactment of the East African Community One Stop Border Post Act, 2016.
The OSBP model, supported by other trade facilitation initiatives such as the Regional Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) and the Single Customs Territory (SCT), has decongested border posts and encouraged compliance by traders, including the small scale cross border traders, resulting to increased Government revenue collection.
It can therefore be argued that through OSBP, the EAC is now economically competitive, experiences improved border security, and there is noticeable and coordinated utilization of government resources at the border posts as well as strengthened trade relations between member states.
(Mr. Musyoki is the Commissioner for Customs and Border Control at the Kenya Revenue Authority, [email protected])