Kenya will address delays and backlog of trucks at the borders in a week’s time, Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina has said.
Even so, trust issues around Covid-19 tests continue to play out at the borders with Tanzania and Uganda, with drivers from either side complaining of discrimination and lack of transparency in the processes.
Speaking to the Star yesterday, CS Maina said the government has increased testing capacity at its borders to ensure speedy clearance of truck drivers.
The CS last week during a Webinar by consultancy firm Delloite assured of government’s commitment to support cross-border trade.
“Nobody wants disruption of business,” the CS told the Star yesterday, “We have increased capacity to clear backlog.”
She however insisted drivers must take tests before commencing their journeys.
Under the guidelines in place, truck drivers test and receive Covid-19 results in a minimum time of 48hours before being proceeding with their journey.
“In the context of Covid, we must ensure we support the health ministry and that we conduct safe trade,” CS Betty said.
Most affected borders are the busy Kenya-Uganda border of Malaba and the Kenya-Tanzania border of Namanga.
At Malaba, delays have caused a long queue with trucks stretching more than 50 kilometers on either sides.
Kenyan truck drivers have accused Ugandan authorities of harassment once in their territory, where they are denied access to amenities such as toilets and hotels.
“They eat, sleep, relieve themselves in the trucks,” Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) chief executive Dennis Ombok told the Star.
There are at least 600-1000 heavy commercial trucks along the Northern Corridor which links Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and DR Congo to the Port of Mombasa.
At the Namanga border, tension remains high with Tanzanian authorities rigid about clearance of Kenya truck drivers.
A fortnight ago, Tanzania said it cannot do business with Kenya if she continues to breach agreements, 10 days after the two countries reopened the Namanga border.
The two countries agreed to reopen their borders on May 22 after a tense week marked by a simmering trade dispute occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tanzania claimed their truck drivers with certified Covid-19 test certificates are forced to retest before crossing the border.
Border delays have become a headache for the Cabinet Secretary for East African Community and Regional Development Adan Mohammed.
“Malaba border is the serious issue we are dealing with at the moment because of the delays we suffer through the corridor,” CS Mohammed said at a recent briefing.
The border delays have increased truck turn-around time with the CS noting that time taken by truck drivers to transport goods from Mombasa to Uganda has doubled due to the measures introduced to curb the spread of the virus.
“During pre-corona days, it would ordinarily take three days for a driver to drive from the Port of Mombasa to Kampala and back,” Adan said.
It currently takes 10 days more than two weeks to make a round trip between Mombasa and Kampala, the biggest destination for transit cargo through the Port of Mombasa.
Transport sector data shows the Malaba and Busia borders have about 800 and 500 trucks crossing every day, respectively.
“We have seen significant delays in cargo clearance. While it used to take between four hours and 24 hours, now it takes 36 hours to 48 hours,” Kobo360 Kenya Country Manager Dennis Kathurima told the Star on the telephone.
Truck drivers have experienced additional fuel expenses, increased mileage per trip and even truck and cargo security, which have caused an escalation in the drivers’ monthly costs, the African e-logistics firm notes in its latest report.
Uganda accounts for more than 83.2 per cent of transit cargo to the hinterland through the Port of Mombasa with an average annual transit traffic of 7.8 million tonnes.
South Sudan takes up 9.9 per cent while DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively, Kenya Port Authority data shows.
“Uganda remains our biggest transit destination,” KPA notes in its recent port performance report.
(The Star Newspaper, Kenya)