Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on Tuesday, June 7, decried the numerous challenges traders face at the Rusumo border crossing between Rwanda and Tanzania.
Lawmakers stressed that regional countries should swiftly tackle issues at the border, and at other EAC borders, with urgency so as to better facilitate trade and the movement of people.
Unharmonised tax rates, limited access to essential utilities, as well as lack of laboratory and testing equipment from the Tanzania Bureau of Standards, Tanzania Food and Drug Authority, and even a medical laboratory to facilitate respective inspection tasks, among others, was observed by members of the Assembly's standing Committee on Communication, Trade and Investment, during an oversight activity in October 2021.
MP Oda Gasinzigwa (Rwanda) noted that there is need to pay particular attention to the issue of lack of testing equipment since most products being moved along the border are food stuffs.
She said: "It becomes dangerous for our consumers of we have no testing equipment. I urge the Council of Ministers to follow up closely because this is a food security issue."
The Committee Chairperson, MP Christopher Nduwayo (Burundi), presented their findings on Tuesday, noting that inspite of all, the border crossing which plays an important role for cross border trade between Rwanda and Tanzania and for transit gods from Tanzania to the DR Congo is one of the best designed one stop border posts (OSBPs) in the region.
Rusumo border links Rwanda and the eastern DR Congo, among others to the port of Dar es Salaam through what is commonly known as the Central Corridor.
"There are different tax rates and other charges which are not yet harmonised within the EAC framework and this produces confusion for traders at the time of clearing their goods as they exit or enter the OSBP. This occurs on both sides of Rwanda and Tanzania," Nduwayo said.
"There is lack of harmony in measures affecting free movement of people where some partner state allows the use of national Ids while the other still requires the use of other costly travel documents as well as the non-participation of the Republic of Tanzania to the EAC tourist visa system."
Tanzania and Burundi do not recognise the use of national IDs as travel documents while Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda do.
Nduwayo also highlighted the challenge of the lack of harmonisation of national laws which affects free cross-border movement of people and goods at the border. He pointed to the case of the law on foreign vehicles transit charges.
"While Rwanda grants 14 days free of charge with possible extension at the cost of $30 per 30 days, Tanzania grants only seven days free of charge and charges $20 per 30 days for any extension of stay," he said.
Lawmakers observed that some partner states are not certifying their products based on regional harmonised standards "which leads the OSBP officials to conduct further conformity assessment," and thus causing further delays to traders on the border.
Disruptions in electricity supply which causes delays in border operations, lack of reliable medical services, insufficient staff accommodation facilities and lack of canteen services, all on the side of Tanzania, were among the other challenges highlighted.
In August 2018, an inferno gutted the Tanzanian side of the Rusumo OSBP, leaving one person dead and six fuel tanks and a tractor destroyed.
The challenges faced at the border result from lack of harmonisation of national laws that adversely affects the functioning of the EAC Common Market Protocol.
"These laws include domestic taxes and charges, laws on travel documents and visas, fuel and road tolls, road and traffic, and foreign vehicles transit charges."
Besides issues observed at the Rusumo OSBP, lawmakers also toured and inspected the Kabanga/Kobero OSBP on the Burundi-Tanzania border, and the Elegu/Nimule OSBP between Uganda and South Sudan.
MP François-Xavier Kalinda (Rwanda) told The New Times that apart from Rusumo OSBP which operates 24 hours all week, others only operate during the day "which was not the intention of building OSBPs and this allows more NTBs to hinder trade and movement of goods and services."
Lawmakers also took time to inspect the implementation of the Rusumo hydro power project shared by Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania which has delayed.