The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) commissioner customs Abel Kagumire, said an increasing number of traders are now opting to use the Dar es Salaam Port following the deployment of URA officers at the port to clear Uganda bound cargo as well as that in transit.
This, he said, has smoothened the clearance process, increasing efficiency at the port.
"You can pay your taxes in Uganda when your goods are in Dar es Salaam and simply pick them and drive non-stop to your final destination which never used to happen before," he said.
He added: "If you are going to Mbarara, Masaka, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo through Mpondwe why should you go to Mombasa?"
Kagumire was speaking during the function at which the Danish government, through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) handed over personal protection equipment (PPE) to border authorities at the Mutukula One-Stop Border Post (OSBP).
Previously, the Mombasa route was preferred by Ugandan traders for both imports and exports and it accounted for 80% of Uganda's trade.
This was mainly due to the long distance from Dar es Salaam and the inefficiencies that characterised the port.
To increase competitiveness and attract more Ugandan traders to use the Dar es Salaam port, Tanzania Ports Authority offered incentives including a 30-days grace period for Uganda-bound cargo to stay in the port without attracting a surcharge.
Additionally, Ugandan traders are given concessionary and waivers on storage charges accrued, although it is on a case-by-case basis, among others.
Kagumire said despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted operations worldwide, the Mutukula OSBP has facilitated 24,715 trucks to cross the border since March.
Of these, 19,308 trucks were incoming and transit while 5,407 outgoing, with an average of 150 trucks incoming and 70 trucks outgoing.
The trade volume was valued at sh267b worth of imports and sh251b exports.
Kagumire lauded the Danish Embassy, World Food Programme and TMEA for the timely intervention with PPE for their staff at Mutukula, which he said is the most exposed border.
The Danish ambassador to Uganda H.E Nicolaj A. Hejberg Petersen said Denmark is passionate about promoting private sector development in Uganda through sustainable and inclusive development programmes that is why they implemented the Safe Trade Emergency Facility to ensure that while the COVID-19 pandemic had to be contained, trade needed to continue flowing. Under the facility, the government of Denmark is also supporting the Uganda government with technology to enhance truck driver testing and tracking, the development and implementation of the relevant protocols to enhance efficient and safe trade, supporting trade policy and the development of safe trade zones to support formal and informal traders at the borders, among others.
The TMEA acting country director Damali Ssali underscored the need for Uganda to safeguard and boost its trade and economy amidst efforts to contain the pandemic.
"One of the components of the safe trade emergency facility is the PPEs that we are handing over today. The Danish government through DANIDA has given TMEA Uganda programme $2m (about sh7.2b) for the safe trade facility.
She said: "We will also be handing over PPE to other border points such as Mirama Hills."
She also alluded to Safe Trade Zones, as part of the facility, where they will be providing PPE to cross border markets, which are largely dominated by women. These include Mutukula, Malaba, Elegu and Busia.
Ssali noted that the PPE that were handed over are part of the wider Safe Trade Emergency Facility, a $23m emergency programme rolled out by TMEA in the East African region in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that seeks to ensure regional economies continue to trade in a safe way while curbing cross-border infections.
In a speech read by the state minister for co-operative Fredrick Gume Ngobi, Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde observed that the PPE donation will ensure that Uganda's international trade continues in a safe manner and help boost trade volumes.
She urged them to ensure that all public, private and business persons conducting trade through the Mutukula border adhere to the public health guidelines and minimise further spread of the virus.
The items donated include hand sanitisers, handwashing stations, liquid handwashing soap, infrared thermometer, re-usable safety boots, full personal protective equipment, filtering face piece respirator, re-usable masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitiser dispensers and disinfectant spray bottles.