Mombasa — Ugandan and Kenyan traders will be the biggest beneficiaries after their two countries yesterday signed a raft of agreements meant to ease trade, cement political ties and improve their social/cultural connections.
The colourful signing ceremony, conducted at the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, was witnessed by President Museveni and his counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta.
President Museveni, who arrived in Mombasa straight from Johannesburg in South Africa where he had been attending the Saharawi Solidarity Summit, is in Kenya on a three-day state visit on the invitation of President Kenyatta.
The agreements, clustered into three major categories; defence, trade and social affairs, focus on not only easing means of doing business between the two countries but also resolve some of the sticking issues that have hampered trade.
For example, the pacts direct Kenya to consider increase of its sugar quota imported from Uganda from the current 36,000 tonnes to 90,000 tonnes.
Uganda has been tasked to formally lodge a request to this effect that would create market for at least 54,000 metric tonnes of its surplus 90,000 metric tonnes it produces annually.
On the other hand, beef exporters in Kenya can expect to tap into the Uganda market after the latter was directed to lift its ban on beef and beef products from Kenya with immediate effect.
The poultry industry in Uganda will also have reason to smile after Kenya agreed to lift the ban on poultry products from Uganda within a week, dependent on Ugandan authorities furnishing them with necessary information making a case for the decision.
Another sector set to profit are the tile makers after it was agreed that a joint verification of their quality be conducted within two weeks and thereafter they can be exported to Kenya.
For dairy producers in Uganda, it should be good news after Kenya agreed to do away with a host on non-tariff barriers that were affecting their exports. For example, they will no longer need authority from the Livestock Department of Kenya to export milk to the neighbouring country.
Kenya also clarified that it has resumed issuance of importation permits of dairy products from Uganda, which had stopped on February 1st this year.
However, it is not rosy news for those packaging alcohol in plastic sachets after both countries directed Uganda to ban this packaging by May 30. The two countries will also develop modalities on fighting alcohol use and drug trafficking.
The other decisions arrived at focus on bettering the trade environment, including directives that Kenya reduces its numerous roadblocks that affect cargo destined for Uganda, it deploys more staff in Kampala to facilitate trade and allows more Ugandan clearing agents to access their systems.
Both countries' revenue authorities have also been directed to work jointly in enforcing land and lake patrols, continue improving the single customs system at borders, and closer cooperation of revenue officers at the coastal city of Mombasa.
On the social and cultural front, the key highlight was a request that Kenya ensures a harmonisation of fees charged on Ugandan students at its public universities.
The agreements were a result of discussions between officials of both countries under the Kenya-Uganda Joint Ministerial Commission that began on March 21 in Kenya.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa led the Uganda team while his Kenyan counterpart, Monica Juma, headed her country's team.
Uganda's delegation also included Minister for Presidency Esther Mbayo, Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana, Internal Affairs State Minister Obiga Kania and Housing State Minister Chris Baryomunsi.
On security and foreign affairs
Permits. Both countries, among others, agreed to ease the process of getting work permits for their nationals, harmonise methods of verifying temporary travel documents and formally communicate cases of repatriation.
Time frame. Kenya was directed to originate a draft document in one month's time that makes clear a case for extradition and repatriation between the two countries.
Smuggling. With the biting vehicle thefts in Uganda, with most cars reportedly smuggled to Kenya, the countries have agreed to strengthen their border patrols to intercept stolen vehicles.
Tight security. The pacts list some of the notorious porous border points in Busia like Marachi, Sofia and Alupe that must be watched religiously.
Human trafficking. The countries have also agreed to develop formal guidelines within three months to help check human trafficking, with a call to arrest perpetrators. Uganda will initiate this document in the next three months.