Trade volumes and the number of roaming mobile phone calls across East Africa have increased following efforts by regional leaders to further open up the bloc to members.
A Kenyan official in the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority, Mr Joseph Nyaga, said voice calls across the four countries have increased by over 1,000 per cent. Those from Kenya have gone up by 260 per cent.
At the same time, the length of time taken to clear cargo at Mombasa Port has reduced as well as movement of goods by road from the facility to Kampala and Kigali. It now takes seven days, compared to 12 in 2007-2008.
Mr Nyaga, who is a former Cabinet minister, spoke last week during the launch of a report on the impact of the Northern Corridor in the region.
“The four presidents (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda) commissioned the report to assess the progress made since efforts were initiated to ease movement of goods and people in the region,” he said.
Other factors that have opened up the region include a common market protocol that allows easier movement of people, use of identity cards to cross borders, issuance of East African tourist visa and creation of one network area where roaming mobile phone call charges have been standardised.
Mr Nyaga said a study would be conducted to assess the impact of roaming charges on SMS, data and mobile financial services.
Another measure that has boosted trade volumes include reduction of air fares between Entebbe and Nairobi by 60 per cent.
Movement of trucks within the region has also been eased due to initiatives such as introduction of a single customs declaration, harmonisation of customs laws and instruments.
Plans are afoot to cut the number of weighbridges and reduce congestion at ports as well as border posts.
Corruption, however, remains rampant with the cost of bribes for trucks between Mombasa and Kigali reducing marginally from $864 in 2009 compared to $847 in January 2013, with 93 per cent of the amount paid at weighbridges.
A second corridor that links Dar es Salaam to the region is also in operation and has resulted in ease of doing business.
Source: Daily Nation
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