Friday, July 4, 2008



Thursday, 3rd July, 2008
New Vision Editorial

President Paul Kagame, in his speech at the East African Community summit in Kigali last week, decried the obstacles to trade and business in the region.

He cited congested and ineffective ports, dilapidated railway lines, broken highways, chaotic and snail-paced border crossings and a multitude of weighbridges that encourage corruption.

Quoting from a World Bank report, he said goods bound for inland countries take up to 25 days to be cleared at the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

“This is exacerbated by the poor conditions of both the Northern and Central Corridor highways, including the time it takes to cross borders, which in some cases can take more than 24 hours.”

The Rwandan president took the test himself. He sent a foreign researcher disguised as a co-driver on a truck with export goods to Mombasa.

The researcher reported not less than 47 road blocks between Kigali and the Kenyan port. He ranked the road blocks in three categories: police check points, border gates and weighbridges.

“Although each road block provided a potential for corruption, the weighbridges proved to be the most devastating, accounting for 84% of the total bribe value,” Kagame said.

Whereas repairing the dilapidated railway lines and broken highways are a long process, something can be done immediately about the ineffective ports, the corruption-breeding road blocks and the time-consuming border crossings.

The weighbridges and police checks can be limited to two per country, one at the entrance and one at the exit. The borders can be left open 24 hours, like in European countries.

And the ports can employ more people and reduce red tape to clear the backlog.

In 2006, Kenya derived 17% of its export revenue from services it provided to inland countries. Surely, if its port was more effective, it would gain even more.

The First East African Investment Conference was a good step towards promoting investment and trade in the region, crucial for job and wealth creation.

But investors and traders will only truly benefit when they are no longer seen as milk cows by whoever crosses their path.