Tanzania: Burundi Yet to Benefit From Regional Trade Regime

Arusha — A report released by the East African Business Council (EABC) has indicated that many cross border traders are not aware about the East African Community (EAC) simplified Trade Regime (STR), and therefore have never imported under the scheme.

The report released recently in Arusha, Tanzania comes on the heels of East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera's meeting with the business executive officers of Burundi in the capital Bujumbura.

Held under the EAC SG CEO forum and organised by the East African Business Council (EABC) and Trademark East Africa, the overall objective is to provide a forum for the EAC Secretary General and CEOs of regional businesses in the Partner States to discuss key challenges facing the private sector in the EAC integration process and suggested recommendations.

The report says that several business people in Burundi have complained of the elaborate documentation requirements for trade transaction, according to the business climate index (BCI) report 2011.

It adds that these documents including the national/customs laws are mainly written in French or English whereas the majority of business people only understand Kirundi and/or Kiswahili since they are not well educated.

This hinders their ability to efficiently comply with the customs law and administrative requirements.

Therefore a businessperson is forced to spend an average of between 5-$10 per transaction as extra costs paid to clearing and forwarding agents to prepare required customs documentation. Such costs do not apply to businesses in the other EAC Partner States.As a result many business people experience problems in understanding current customs and port /border stations regulations relevant to exporting from Burundi to EAC and non-EAC countries, and also for importing from EAC and non-EAC countries into Burundi. The same problem also applies to new export/import regulations whenever they occur.

The report adds that businesses incur extra costs due to lack of information about new and changed customs regulations that range between not less than $200 to more than $1,000 per consignment. Other major impacts of the lack of information include being late in making deliveries for confirmed orders, and time loss of between 1 day to more than 2 days during the process of sorting out non-compliance problems with customs procedures while goods are lying at the border stations or at the port. The report adds that respondents indicated that congestion at the border stations is the cause of delayed exports and imports."Burundi ranks as the poorest EAC country on ease and efficiency of customs procedures and administrative requirements based on average weighted rankings by Burundi and other EAC respondents to the survey," notes the report.

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