Kampala, Uganda — Plans are under way to modernize Katuna, the Rwanda-Uganda customs crossing into one-stop border crossing that will operate 24 hours.
The Uganda-Rwanda border customs points will start 24-hour operations next month, according to an agreement signed by the two countries during the Joint Permanent Commission meeting in Kampala last week.
The development also follows growing traffic of cargo and passengers at the borders as trade between Uganda and Rwanda increased by over 60% in the last one year, according to Uganda's ambassador to Rwanda, Mr. Richard Kabonero.
The trade volume increased from US$90m in 2008 to $168m last year, making Rwanda the number two trading partner with Uganda in the region, after South Sudan. Leading export items to Rwanda are construction materials and foodstuffs.
Uganda is also fast becoming the number one preferred destination for students from Rwanda, numbering 400 at the moment. Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said that the two-day meeting also agreed to operationalise the border posts of Rwempasha, Kizinga and upgrade the operations at Kamwezi and Buziba.
Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwaho said her government is willing to cooperate with Uganda and reiterated Rwanda's commitment to steer the growth of the East African Community.
Traffic between the two countries is increasing, with buses leaving Kampala at 11:00pm. They arrive at Katuna before 6:00am. However, bus operators have complained that most times the border is closed, leaving passengers to suffer in the biting cold.
The meeting also tasked the rural electrification department in the energy ministries of both countries to assess how the border posts could be lit by June.
Uganda announced that it is tarmacking roads of the gazzeted border posts of Ntungamo-Mirama Hills. The meeting also agreed that the two countries will launch a one-stop border centre and a simplified certificate of origin on March 19.
Uganda is expected to provide a list of items on the simplified certificate of origin on March 19 and information on the issuing authority which is the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
Kutesa announced that the two countries had put aside funds to resume the verification exercise.
The communiqué also stated that the two countries agreed to review the gorilla trans-boundary agreement on the revenue shared by the two countries and will be concluded by July this year.
Meanwhile, the one-stop customs post will be the second in the East African Community (EAC) region to operate as a one border post following the completion of Malaba post at the border between Kenya and Uganda.
Officials from Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) sit under one roof to clear goods either from Uganda or Kenya and it takes about two hours to clear a truck.
The plan for modernizing the post into a one border post will be implemented under the auspices of the East Africa Trade and Transport Facilitation Project (EATTFP) by Uganda's Ministry of Works and Transport.
The ministry is now seeking consultancy services for the design and construction of a one stop border post (OSBP) at Katuna.
The Ministry announced that the government of Uganda has received a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, and intends to apply part of the credit proceeds to make payments for consultancy services for feasibility studies, detailed designs including engineering and architectural, tender documentation, and supervision of construction works for the construction of the post.
It said in a statement that the scope of the consultancy services will include civil works that will comprise construction of new structures to function as one stop border post control centers, in a juxtaposed arrangement with the facilities on the Rwanda side of the border.
This will cover the construction of a customs building to accommodate the Uganda and Rwanda customs personnel for inbound clearance procedures planned to be located within the common control area.
It also includes the construction of a goods inspection shed or building to accommodate both Uganda and Rwanda personnel inspecting Uganda bound goods and cargo; and will also incorporate other control units such as quality and drugs units, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, and any other competent agencies to be located within the common control area.