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Kenya intervenes in Busia, Malaba border crisis

By Faustine Odeke

Added 15th October 2020 05:07 PM

Uganda's exports to Kenya stood at $46.9m as of August 2020

Kenya intervenes in Busia, Malaba border crisis

Trucks stuck at the Malaba border post on Tuesday. Photo by Faustine Odeke

Uganda's exports to Kenya stood at $46.9m as of August 2020

The Kenyan government has intervened to address a huge hold-up of cargo trucks at the Malaba and Busia border posts.

Over 2,500 cargo trucks heading to Uganda are held up on the Kenyan side of the border posts due to lack of COVID-19 testing reagents.

Ugandan importers were incurring huge losses after their cargo remained at the border for days.

On Tuesday, the queue of the trailers stretched from Malaba border to Bugoma town. Along the route, a number of trucks had overturned as impatient drivers attempted to overtake other trucks, especially at night.

A team from the Kenya Ministry of East African Community, East African Business Council (EABC), TradeMark East Africa, European Union, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on Monday and Tuesday made a fact-finding tour at Busia and Malaba border points to assess the situation.

The team, led by the Kenyan principal secretary for the Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development, Dr Devit Desai, toured other border towns and held meetings with customs officials and other stakeholders.

Desai also met officials at the Isebania and Namanga border points on afflatoxin surveillance, testing and issuance of COVID-19 free certificates and challenges faced by small-scale crossborder traders.

Desai said the huge traffic pile-up was due to shortage of reagents, but noted that the Kenyan government has since obtained adequate supplies.

He gave assurance that the hold-up would be reduced drastically by next week. By Tuesday, the cargo trucks had started crossing into Uganda.

Desai said as an immediate intervention, they decided to develop an application with the European Union and TradeMark East Africa to accredit testing laboratories to place certification online, which can be downloaded by 50,000 drivers on their phones.

He added that they are also establishing another testing laboratory with a trailer parking yard at Eldoret to handle truck drivers, intensify sensitisation, besides finding solutions at Malaba border, which needs dedicated equipment in order to facilitate cross-border trade.

"We urge all stakeholders to work closely with the Government to address the COVID-19 challenge. The private sector must also ensure that testing is done in their respective firms. We are going to create a tripartite agreement with the certificates among East Africa Community (EAC) member states to harmonise the cost of testing," Desai said.

EABC executive director Dr Peter Mathuki said COVID-19 has taken a toll on cashflow among EAC member states.

Mathuki called for mutual recognition of COVID-19 certificates among EAC partner states and restocking of reagents to minimise traffic hold-ups at the Busia and Malaba border posts.

He said trucks heading to the Busia border were stretching from Mundika town, which is 15km from the Busia border, while the trucks on the Malaba border post stretched beyond 30km.

With about 55 trucks stalled per kilometre, this implies that more than 2,400 trucks destined for Uganda are yet to be cleared, which is disrupting cross-border trade and costing the economy.

"It is critical for transporters in the region to also embrace the recently launched Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) to improve the truck turn and allow partner states to electronically share truck drivers' COVID-19 test results. This will minimise the need for multiple COVID-19 tests in a single trip," he said.

"EABC is also calling for cargo trucks to be weighed at the loading point and the next one-stop border post. Intra-EAC trade is rebounding with Kenya's exports to Uganda standing at $88m as at August 2020, a jump from $53.9m in the same period last year. Uganda exports to Kenya stood at $46.9m as at August 2020, a slight decline from $48.3m recorded last year," he said.

Kenya's key imports from Uganda include milk, cream, tobacco, cane electrical energy and plywood. On the other hand, Uganda's imports from Kenya include palm oil, iron or non-alloy steel, petroleum oils and salt.

Mathuki also called for a regional multi-sectoral approach in addressing food safety concerns with key focus on enhancement of lab testing capacities and increase in sensitisation of the business community and other stakeholders on the dangers of aflatoxins.

County commissioner Joseph Kanyiri urged the Kenya National Highway Authority to deliver quality roads by assigning good contractors, noting that they will not hesitate to arraign in court contractors who do a shoddy job.

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