While the business community is upbeat about benefits to accrue when Kagitumba-Mirama Hills One-stop Border Post (OSBP) on Rwanda-Uganda border opens in April, there is need to extend financial services to enable people make full use of the new facility.
This was noted Thursday as the Minister for East African Community Affairs, Valentine Rugwabiza, visited the border post to assess progress on the construction of the 24-hour OSBP. The project aims at facilitating easy movement of people and their goods by reducing the time transporters spend clearing goods. It is projected that this will in turn improve intra-regional trade as well as boost revenue collection.
Gerard Mahoro, a customs officer, told the minister that while all is set for the April launch, “the picture will not be complete if basic financial services such as banking and insurance are not here to facilitate trade.”
The nearest commercial bank, Banque Populaire du Rwanda, is 10km away in Matimba trading centre while insurance firms such as Corar and Radiant are far away in Nyagatare.
Construction of the OSBP, with $10.5 million funding from TradeMark Africa, is at 95 percent. By April, all the infrastructure-customs and immigration offices, police post, customs inspection sheds and warehouse, clearing and forwarding offices will be ready. Also to be built are roads, water treatment and storage tanks, parking yards and staff quarters.
Immigration officials say over 233, 000 tourists crossed this border point in 2013/14.
Rugwabiza urged the people to work together and make full use of this facility.
“Many trucks are soon going to go through here and businesses will sprout. People have to think about the opportunities and must prepare to exploit and benefit fully,” she said.
Her remarks were echoed by the Governor of Eastern Province, Odette Uwamariya, who described the OSBP as “an economic pull factor.”
OSBPs are designed to reduce time spent in clearing transporters from two hours to less than 40 minutes. “This will have a big impact. We need to start thinking about private enterprises. Apart from the mainstream business perspective, the place will look [a tourist attraction],” Uwamariya said.
Last October, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni launched works to upgrade the 37km Ntungamo-Mirama Hills road to bitumen. Once that part of the major northern corridor road is upgraded to bitumen standard, traffic on the border is expected to more than double.
“We hope business will pick up greatly such that when all big trucks and vehicles start going through here, we will all make more money as the place becomes more vibrant,” said Leocadie Batamuliza, who works for a cleaning firm.
“Things seem to be getting better here,” said Eric Nsengimana, a Kagitumba resident who was walking to the other side of the border. “I am old now but my children will be better off as more development comes to us. This is really impressive.”
James Taremwa, a ministry of trade official, said they plan to build a cross-border market on a two hectare plot some 200 meters from the border.
“This market will link traders with producers in the area so that they exploit local agricultural produce,” Taremwa said.
Hannington Namara, TradeMark Africa country director, said that by the end of the year, the two bridges at the border will also be completed. Of the total $10.5 million TMA package, $2.4million is for constructing two new bridges, one on each side of the old bridge at the border.
“Time is money and when one wastes a lot of time in clearing and transport logistics this affects profits,” Namara said.
A similar OSBP was recently launched at Rusumo border with Tanzania. It was funded by the Japanese government.
Source: All Africa
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.