TANZANIA may consider lowering road toll it charges for Rwandan registered cargo trucks to address the stalemate between the two countries regarding hiked user transit charge by the latter.
Rwanda increased by over three times road toll for Tanzanian registered trucks from 152 USD (about 243,000/-) to 500 USD (about 800,000) effective September 1, this year. The new toll was however suspended for one week to pave way for negotiations.
"I will be meeting Rwandan Finance and Planning Minister in Kampala, Uganda on Wednesday, where I am hopeful this matter will be finalised," Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Dr William Mgimwa told 'Daily News'.
He added: "The taxes are contained in the law and I have been navigating the legislation to see whether there is a leeway for me to reduce the charges on our part to facilitate trade between the two countries."
Rwanda has been complaining on what it describes as higher charges by Tanzanian authorities. Vehicles exceeding axle load 4 attract a road toll of 16 USD per 100 kilometres on Tanzanian roads.
At first, Rwanda used to charge 16 USD per 100km in reciprocal with Tanzania before it introduced a flat rate of 152 USD and eventually the new rate of 500 USD. Kigali is just 139km from the Rusumo border while the distance from the border to Dar es Salaam is 1,350km.
Last week, local truck operators appealed to the government to immediately engage authorities in Kigali regarding the hiked road toll which they said will have adverse impact for the central transport corridor and the port of Dar es Salaam.
Cargo volume along the route is estimated at 600,000 tonnes each month. The corridor carries transit consignments destined for Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and parts of north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) such as Bukavu, Kivu and Goma through Rwanda.
"If Rwanda insists on the new charges then the central corridor and the port of Dar es Salaam will be heavily affected," according to Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATOA)'s Spokesperson Elias Lukumay.
Before the new rates, truck owners used to charge their customers between 4,000 and 4,200 USD from Dar es Salaam to Kigali but they will be forced to increase the charge to accommodate the road toll increment.
"The increment will make us increase the charge to between 4,350 and 4,550 USD almost the same with charges for northern corridor through the port of Mombasa which is about 4,500 to 4,800 USD.
"Lower charges coupled with short distance were the major lure for traders using the central corridor but since the charges are likely to go up they (traders) may consider other factors such as efficiency along the two routes," Mr Lukumay said.
Sources have told this paper that since Rwanda announced the charge increment, the government of Kenya has on its part removed all road blocks and barriers which were hitherto considered to be non-tariff barriers as a way of enticing transporters.
Tanzania is the shortest and affordable transport corridor for Kigali at a distance of just 1,350km compared to over 2,700km when goods are transported through Mombasa.
According to Lukumay each day between 200 and 300 trucks originating from Tanzania pass through the Rusumo border whereas hardly 10 trucks from that country transport cargo to Tanzania each week.
Analysts see the new move by Rwanda to increase road toll exclusively for Tanzanian registered trucks as a strategy to stifle the port of Dar es Salaam and central transport corridor as a whole in favour of northern route through Mombasa port in Kenya.