By Joyce Namutebi
Uganda is seeking to participate in management of Mombasa port and other ports in the East African Community, a senior government official has said.
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of East African Community (EAC) Affairs, Edith Mwanje said Thursday that Uganda should have a say in the management of ports because of "the too many delays" at the ports, which she said affect trade.
"Let us be recognized as full stakeholders in the management of ports. The ports should be managed collectively as EAC," Mwanje said at a 'validation workshop on Uganda's country position on the single Customs Territory' held in Kampala.
At the workshop a draft report on "Uganda's position on the negotiation for a single Customs Territory", which was authored by Development Economist, Paul Bagabo and his colleague Lawrence Othieno was released and discussed by various stakeholders.
The two were commissioned by the Ministry of Finance to undertake a study and develop a position for Uganda for the negotiations for a fully-fledged Customs Union. Their report will inform Uganda's negotiating team.
They study is meant to enable the High Level Task Force to develop a mechanism for engagement in the negotiations for a single customs territory and ensure that Uganda is not disadvantaged, among others.
The Single customs Territory provides for free movement of goods in the EAC partner states, non-payment of tax of the good that are circulating in the states and imposition of a common tax on goods coming from outside the territory, Mwanje explained.
She said that apart from the issue on ports, there are still administrative barriers and problems of corruption which should be addressed.
She advised that Uganda and the partner states should watch out for goods imported into their countries and re-packaged to look as if they are made in EAC and end up evading taxes. Uganda, she said, needs a strong law to monitor such anomalies.
The draft report stated that currently ports handle over 805 of the imports for Uganda. 'The research revealed that recent changes in port charges and other decisions particularly at the port of Mombasa have been taken without input from Uganda. This has led to inconvenience and disruptions in the import process in the country," Bagabo said.
Given the role that the sea ports of Mombasa and Dar-es-salaam play in the import regimes of landlocked partner states in a regional integration arrangement, the study recommended that Uganda should be involved in the decision making process at the ports.
The draft report was debated by representatives from the ministries of Finance, trade and EAC affairs, private sector, manufacturers, Kampala City Traders Association, members of the high level task force involved in the negotiations with other partner states on the single customs territory, and the Uganda Export Promotion Board, among others.