The managers of Nimule one stop border point (OSPB) must put their act together and rise to the occasion for which the facility was established or else risk rendering the $5million trade infrastructure a white elephant—good for nothing.
Nimule custom point which is the South Sudan side of the border was commissioned as OSPB in February this year with anticipation that it will facilitate efficient regional and cross border trade.
Particularly it was expected to reduce the annoying congestion, slowing movements of people and cargos, getting rid of duplicated border procedures and non-coordination of various government officials based at the custom point.
As a result, the two trade infrastructure—Elegu OSBP which is the Ugandan side of the border and Nimule OSBP were expected to complement each other hence easing the trade not just between Uganda and South Sudan but also regional trade as a whole.
For a while now, this is not what has been happening, compelling officers operating at Elegu OSBP to raise a red flag about the situation at the other end of the border after it became obvious that Nimule OSBP is not delivering on its key mandate with efficiency expected of the modern facility, funded by UK government through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA).
Speaking during the handover of personal protection equipment at Elegu OSBP last week, the acting immigration in charge, Elegu Cluster, Prosper Arineitwe Twayaga, called for Nimule OSBP efficiency to be to expedited, considering that it is taking a toll on what should be a well-coordinated operation between the two modern custom points.
He said: “…whereas we are operating full OSBP, our colleagues at the other side of the border are not,” he said.
He continued: “Immigration and custom are inseparable. For the OSBP concept to reach its full potential, Nimule OSBP must be fully operational.”
Currently, the suspicious political environment is yet to allow for smooth operations of couple of things, including proper management of Nimule OSBP. Security related issues as well as matters to do with proper staffing of the personnel to run the OSBP professionally while also facilitating the informal cross border trade where women make up about 70 per cent.
In her speech during the handover of the personal protective gears, Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) Ag. Country Director, Ms Damali Nassali noted that they remained committed in their endevours to fulfill their side of the bargain as well as support OSBP to reach its expected potential. So far Uganda has the most OSPB and all of them have transformed regional and cross border trade in a manner not seen before. It takes no more than two hours to clear a trucks and cargo at OSBP, an exercise that previously took days if not weeks.
“We are hoping to see South Sudan OSBP fully up and running and we will do everything to facilitate that. We will do that in a coordinated manner because they are our biggest trading partner. Working headline: Securing customs revenue in the wake of COVID-19 and routine flooding at Elegu border
While still at it
Meanwhile In an effort to guarantee flawless trade in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic at Elegu one stop border point, which is the border between Uganda and South Sudan, customs frontline workers, most of whom are concerned about their safety, have been guaranteed routine supply of personal protective gears, an initiative that Uganda Revenue Authority says will boost custom revenue collection.
About Shs1.5trillion worth of export from Uganda made it to South Sudan in the last financial year. The challenge however is, most of the produces were in raw form otherwise the country could have fetched more than that from the South Sudan market.
According to Commissioner Custom, Mr Abel Kagumire, with the safety of border frontline workers guaranteed, thanks to the personal protective equipment provided by the Danish government through TMEA-Uganda, trade at the Elegu OSPB, once the epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic, will continue uninterrupted which is good news for the national kitty in terms of customs revenue collection.
With the frontline workers protected, there is no reason as to why trade should be halted because of COVID-19, with Ms Ssali noting that irrespective of the situation, “we still have to eat so we have to trade.”
Counsellor Ulrik Jorgensen, Embassy of Denmark in his speech said: “The handover and distribution of personal protective equipment to the border frontline officers and informal cross border traders at Elegu border post is part of safe border trade intervention to the government, an emergency response of sort to help alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on trade and movement of goods and services.
Before the neighbouring country plunged into chaos, export earnings rose by 9.6 per cent to $3.93 billion (about Shs14trillion) in the period July 2017 to March 2018 from $ 3.59 billion (about Shs13trillion) a year earlier.
South Sudan became Uganda’s leading export destination in 2008 a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was signed in 2005.
Just three years later (in 2008), total exports (both formal and informal) peaked at $1.18 billion (nearly Shs4 trillion). About five years later, the gains were quickly eroded as the environment quickly degenerated.
“However, the fighting that broke out in December 2013, sparking off a civil war in South Sudan, caused a steady decrease in Uganda’s exports from $414m (Shs1.3 trillion) in 2013, to $385m (Shs1.2 trillion) in 2014 and $353m (Shs1.1 trillion) in 2015,” according to an earlier statement issued by ministry of trade.
Uganda’s leading exports to South Sudan are cereals, milling products (maize flour, wheat flour), sugar, iron and steel, cement, beers and soft drinks, motor vehicle re-exports, vegetable oils and soap lubricants.