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Uganda: Less Border Red Tape Thanks to Dutch AidTuesday, January 27, 2015 > 10:20:28
The new electronic cargo tracking system (ECTS) that was introduced by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) last year is already easing trade flows at the border.
Richard Kamajugo, the URA Commissioner for Customs said recently, "The new electronic tracking of cargo trucks had led to the complete elimination of physical escorts, improved the security of goods in transit, improved staff performance and reduced transit time from eight days to two days resulting in cost savings of $400-600 per truck per day. Between 9th May and 6th August 2014, over 4214 consignments used ECTS, resulting in savings of almost $548,000 in escort fees," Kamajugo said.
He was briefing Dutch Ambassadors based in the East African Community (EAC) countries and the Democratic of Republic of Congo (DRC) who were on familiarisation tour.
The Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda, Alphons Hennekens said they were pleased with the improvements in URA. He said, "We support the customs reforms at URA because it facilitates regional trade. Improved regional trade will accelerate the transformation of Ugandan agriculture which is a core element of Uganda's Vision 2040. As such regional integration contributes to poverty reduction and is an incentive for attracting Dutch investors to the region. Dutch investors prefer tapping into the larger EAC market with its 150 million consumers rather than to be limited to a single country market."
Kamajugo said URA was looking forward to better results and growth when they get enough tracking devices.
"Right now, we are only tracking 7% of all cargo, especially those we consider high risk. We have witnessed a great increase in revenue because we can now track these cargos and avoid deviations from the road or offloading the trucks before they reach their destination which results into loss of revenue.
"We are hoping the government and other donors can help us in acquiring more of these devices because their impact on development will be great," he said.
Paulsen Hans, the Managing Director Vivo Energy (Uganda) said his company had seen an 11% growth since last year and he attributed this to the ECTS.
He said it had enabled easy movement of their cargo. "My company totally depends on imports and I think we are the greatest beneficiaries of the ECTS and all the other innovations that URA has put in place. With the ECTS, we are able to monitor our cargo and avoid delays. I remember those days when we had to wait for days to get a physical escort from URA so that our cargo can start moving. Apart from saving on physical escorts, we are able to save time as well. This means more sales, more interests and more investments. We appreciate all the effort," Paulsen said.
Jennifer from Unifreight, a customs agent company said, "It's great that I can be able to track my cargo on my own phone. URA has given us the freedom to actually be their real partners. Before this, we lost a lot of money to highway robbers or even drivers who used to stop somewhere and offload some of the items. With this system, when there is any tampering with the truck, I am able to know and inform URA so that they can check and know what's wrong. They have all the information of the cargo, drivers and it's easy to get them. I hope with time, we will be able to truck all the cargos using the system."
Frank Matsaert, the CEO of TradeMark East Africa, who are lead consultants said they will continue support the URA customs reforms because of the substantive contributions to the development of Uganda.
"The reforms have cut down significantly the average clearance time to less than one day which has led to a reduction in the cost of doing business. We therefore expect to see increased trade activity between Uganda and other countries in the EAC as we believe that this investment in customs reforms is the catalyst that was needed to bring about prosperity to the region," Matsaert said.