Category: Tanzania

One stop border posts – contributing to the ease of doing business in East Africa

Abdul Mohamed is a small business owner based in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. He owns and drives his own truck, which he uses to export plastic chairs to neighbouring Burundi. On Tuesday 9 September 2014 Abdul leaves Dar es Salaam at 7.00 AM carrying almost 2,000 chairs bound for a retailer in Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi. The following day at 1.00 PM after 30 hours on the road, Abdul arrives at the border post of Kobero, just inside Burundi territory. Abdul Mohamed has been exporting chairs to Burundi for the last three years, a five-day return journey covering nearly 2,400 Km. He has made good time on this journey and he expects to spend up to four hours at the border post before getting back behind the wheel and on the road. But it wasn’t always so. Just four months before, Abdul would have had to make the same journey with two border stops, the first at Kabanga on the Tanzanian side of the border, then at Kobero. The procedure was lengthy. Abdul would, through the services of a clearing agent, declare his goods to the customs officers who would make a physical inspection of his cargo. That could take up to 12 hours as he waited in line with the many other truck drivers who use the central corridor to carry goods inland from the port of Dar es Salaam. Then, having completed that procedure, Abdul would go through immigration procedures before finally being allowed into the...

Helping women with small businesses to compete in the East African market

One of TradeMark Africa’s (TMA) objectives, towards its ultimate goal of reducing poverty by increasing trade in East Africa, is improved cross border processes for small traders, especially women. Empowering women in the East African Community as part of the regional integration process is essential to TMA’s goal of improving business competitiveness. Its long-term aim is, through policy change, to eliminate barriers that affect women in trade. In Uganda, TMA is contributing to this by advocating for policy change that will assist women cross border traders and by building capacity, specifically through women’s organisations. “Women need help because of their historic marginalisation”, said iCON Programme Director, Ben Matsiko Kahunga. “They need both confidence and means. If a woman is processing and packaging juice what does she need to cross borders? How does she access quality certification? How can she get advice about packaging, branding and standards?” That is a question that had never occurred to Esther Kabengano, a 37 year old mother of two, living in the Ugandan capital Kampala, where she runs a small business processing and selling fruit juice. She was just too busy trying to survive. By any standards, Kabengano’s business is small, operating from her home where she makes 10 litres of juice at a time (10 litres being the size of the container she uses to hold it) and which she sells on the streets of Kampala by the cupful. Her profit is Ush 4,000 per day - about US$1.5. The profits are not enough...

Setting the East African Standards for Increased Trade and Prosperity

The five Partner States of the East African Community (EAC) are currently involved in activities related to the conformity of products traded within the region. The process which includes the preparation, approval and adoption of the standards related to those products is undertaken by the different national standards bodies in each one of the partner states. A common definition of a standard is a document approved by a recognized body that provides for common and repeated use rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods, for which compliance may or may not be mandatory. Standards play an important role in regional integration. “Standards are vital to integration,” says José Maciel, Director of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and Standards at TradeMark Africa (TMA). “In addition to safeguarding the health and safety of the consumers and the environment, standards can cut the cost and time of doing business by huge amounts. In that sense, they are central to the future wealth of the EAC.” All across the five-nation regional economic bloc, TMA is helping national partners harmonize the standards of the most commonly traded goods in the region so that they can cross borders unimpeded by questions about their authenticity or reliability or origin. These include some of the most-traded goods in the EAC such as tea, coffee, iron, petroleum and edible fats and oils. TMA is assisting the EAC national bureaus of standards, the private sector and the EAC Secretariat on two levels: national and regional. At the...

Tanzanians topple trade barriers with their cell phones

Two years ago truck drivers plying the highway from Dar es Salaam through Tanzania could only fume and argue when they ran into bureaucratic roadblocks, which slowed them to a halt. Today they get around those barriers – with their cell phones. A trailblazing scheme developed by the Tanzanian business community allows frustrated operators to report Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) slowing their freight by SMS message and online – and it is working. “Of all the NTBs that have been reported to us, 42%, that’s nearly half, have been resolved,” says Shammi Elbariki, NTB project coordinator at the online system developed by the Tanzanian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA). The award-winning scheme, developed with help from TradeMark Africa, has attracted attention from the transport industry across the region as it struggles to overturn NTBs inherited from the days before the East African Community (EAC) project was launched. “Uganda has already asked about the technology used so that it can devise a similar scheme, and there is similar interest across the EAC because NTBs are an EAC-wide problem,” says Josaphat Kweka, TradeMark Africa (TMA) Country Director, Tanzania. EAC member governments are committed to abolishing NTBs eventually to create a seamless single market that will spur trade and prosperity and TradeMark Africa (TMA) has helped create National Monitoring Committees (NMCs) in every state to accelerate the process. Under the TCCIA scheme, transport operators, freight forwarders and clearing agents are trained how to report NTBs both online and through SMS and...

Rwandan truckers see Tanzanian barriers to trade reduce

Rwanda’s small trucking industry hasn’t had much to shout about recently, unless it was to complain about interminable roadside delays due to bureaucracy, corruption and paperwork. Until now. Some neat diplomatic footwork with neighbouring Tanzania has given Rwandan truckers some good news in an industry where time is money, costs are high, and margins small and the playing field tilted towards the regional giants and their huge trucking sectors. “Yes, some good news for a change,” says Theodore Murenzi, head of the Rwanda Truckers Association. “Tanzania has dropped a road toll which penalized Rwandan trucks on the central corridor. It’s not 100% good news, but it’s a real start.” A study into the competitiveness of Rwanda’s road freight industry highlighted what Rwandan truckers had long complained about – Tanzania charged Rwandan trucks a $500 transit toll yet Rwanda charged Tanzanian registered trucks only $152, putting Rwanda’s drivers at a $348 disadvantage every return trip and adding to already high costs. Such bureaucratic hurdles to free trade are known as Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs). The EAC is committed to eliminating them altogether, but the process is laborious and the barriers cemented in protectionism. “We registered this as an NTB at the level of the EAC, but the harmonization of the road toll at EAC level is not decided,” says Vincent Safari, head of the National Monitoring Committee on NTBs. “But the study was evidence-based, factual and detailed and we were confident it would succeed, somehow.” After validation of the findings of...

Improving business competitiveness through smallholder farmers in East Africa

In 1999 Jane Nazziwa moved from the capital city of Uganda, Kampala, to a small island 40 kms away, located amid the papyrus channels of Lake Victoria, and accessible only by boat. Jane went there to look after her brother’s seven young children who were AIDS orphans. Her brother had been a farmer on Bussi Island, growing crops on seven acres of land. Arriving on Bussi, Jane knew nothing about farming and spent the first couple of years learning on the job. Then, thanks to a programme run by Jali Organic Development Company, a company processing organic pineapples for export, Jane learnt that by cooperating with other farmers, she could use economies of scale and the power of bulk selling, to increase her income. Jali Organic Development Company (Jali) is run by businessman, Ephraim Muanga. Knowing that Uganda’s pineapples were renowned for their sweetness, he committed to buying pineapples from Bussi Island smallholders. The only problem was getting the pineapples to the market. Taking them by canoe to the mainland was a time consuming process and, because he was buying in bulk, not practical. Getting farmers to the market Muanga connected with NOGAMU (National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda), an umbrella organisation of farmers, processors, exporters and others, with over a million smallholders in its network. NOGAMU’s main objective is to link growers with buyers. In doing this, it offers research and extension services, helps farmers to get appropriate export certification and advocates for an enabling environment for farmers. NOGAMU...

Licking poverty in East Africa – the lollipop example

Whenever I talk or write about East African integration I use this picture of three boys sharing a lollipop. I don’t know where the photo came from or who the boys are, but I do know that it speaks volumes about the way trade could lift millions out of poverty. These three little boys in Kigali are sharing a lollipop. They lick it in turns. The lollipop is imported, so 45% of its cost is due to transport and allied costs. It might have been made in Kenya or Tanzania or even further afield, and it has travelled thousands of kilometres and several borders. So whichever of the boys bought that treat, he’s paying part of the freight clearance charges, handling charges, insurance, fuel costs and the salary of the trucker who got it to the Rwandan capital. It’s no wonder that the boys cannot afford to buy their own lollipops but have to share one. Transport costs in East Africa are among the highest in the world. This is largely due to infrastructure and regulatory constraints but the major reasons for the high costs are policy, legal and regulatory constraints, not infrastructure. It’s not only the slow ports or bad roads that up the price, its old policy and legal habits and slow border crossings. It takes 28 days and $600 to move a 40-foot container from the port of Shanghai, China to Mombasa, Kenya. It can take almost the same amount of time for the same container to...

New breed of freight professionals spur trade

An innovative training program for clearing agents is growing a new breed of professionals to spur trade and prosperity in East Africa. “Where you see trade grow you see prosperity take root. By training the key people in the freight forwarding business, we are helping move goods quicker, save time and money and help the region develop” said Silas Kanamugire of TradeMark Africa (TMA). Run by the East Africa regional freight forwarding governing body (FEAFFA), the program is quickly churning out a fresh generation of professionally trained freight forwarders to quickly expand the ever-growing potential for trade within the East African region. With TradeMark Africa (TMA)’s support, FEAFFA aims to transform the job of freight clearing and forwarding into a recognized profession and to standardize and regulate this key position to streamline the process of doing business in the five-nation bloc. “My clients are now satisfied with the fast clearance of their goods. We are now not seen as unreliable or barriers to the trade process, but rather partners who can help grow the prosperity of this region”, Said Xavery Komba, CEO of Victorius Tanzania Ltd, one of the trained agents. “With more than 40% of business costs accruing to transport and logistics, there is increasing appreciation of the importance of the sector in international trade. I am pleased this program will raise professional standards in the industry with the aim of increasing trade and prosperity in the region,” said the Federation’s Regional Executive Officer, John Mathenge. Up until recently,...

Tanzania launches broad attack on road cargo traffic delays

DAR ES SALAAM – Tanzania’s government and freight industry is mounting a multi-pronged attack on an army of barriers slowing cargo traffic on its lifeline central corridor highway to boost regional growth and development through smoother trade. “There is no doubt that provision of improved transport infrastructure and services are a process which is critical for ongoing growth and development, “the Executive Secretary of the Central Corridor Transit Transport Facilitation Agency (CCTTFA), Rukia Shamte said. She spoke at the launch of the Central Corridor Transport Observatory, an I.T.-based system aimed at identifying the innumerable procedural and physical roadblocks that slow traffic within Tanzania and to neighbouring countries, raising the eventual cost to consumers. The Observatory is one of several initiatives backed by TradeMark Africa (TMA) to accelerate and increase trade within the East African Community (EAC) and beyond to grow prosperity for its 140 million citizens by lowering costs and improving access. “We’re helping set up modern computerized systems and databases to amass all the evidence needed to help the government and private sector overturn Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to trade and cut the cost of imports, which can be as much as 45 percent in landlocked countries,” said Scott Allen, Deputy CEO of TradeMark Africa (TMA). The initiatives track transport delays and holdups so that they can be logged and followed in real-time and then forwarded to the relevant government department or private sector agency for a solution. “If 45 percent of anything, even the cost of a lollipop for...

World chambers honor Tanzanian scheme to topple barriers to free trade

World Chambers of Commerce have honored a Tanzanian-designed scheme to use cell phones to identify and help overturn barriers to free trade across East Africa. The scheme won second prize in the World Chambers of Commerce competition for the best project amongst a field of other groundbreaking innovations from Britain, China, the Slovak Republic and Turkey. The short messaging system (SMS) online non-tariff barrier (NTB) reporting and monitoring mechanism was developed by the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) to get the business community not just to grumble about NTBs but to log them, report them and get them referred to those with the power to overturn them. “Already within East Africa other countries are expressing interest in the system. To get that international recognition for a project designed and driven by the private sector is great,” said Pauline Elago, Country Manager of TradeMark Africa, which backed the scheme. It is the first of its kind in East Africa and is a beacon in the battle against NTBs, regulatory or official hurdles which slow free commerce and add to the cost of transporting goods to the region, which already has the highest transport costs in the world. ““It is a great pleasure to see that the in-house innovation can stretch its wings to the international community. The recognition that the NTBs SMS and online reporting and monitoring system has received is evidence that what we do, as a private sector, in creating favorable business environment adds value to...