The $35 fee paid by each truck entering Rwanda, from Tanzania, is for drivers accommodation in Covid-19 pandemic isolation centres so as to prevent the spread of the pandemic and “is not a tax per se”, Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of EAC affairs, has told The New Times.
His explanation came after the East African Business Council (EABC) on Monday, November 30, issued a statement stating that the current $35 levied on each truck entering Rwanda, as facilitation fees for accommodation and refreshments for truck drivers in Covid-19 isolation centres is likely to adversely affect the cost of doing business.
The regional body’s position followed a visit at the Rusumo One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) linking Rwanda and Tanzania. The tour was aimed at seeking sustainable solutions to issues hampering trade across EAC borders.
The EABC also called for the harmonization of inspection charges by trade facilitation agencies along the Rusumo OSBP to avoid increasing the cost of doing business.
Nshuti explained that the EAC has protocols on how things are handled at common borders and noted that there have been changes regarding how things are imported and exported so as to ensure the safety of goods and people because of the pandemic which created an unusual situation.
“The $35 is not paid to the Government but it goes to the private sector to cater for things such as meals, disinfection and sterilisation to ensure the place is safe for the next driver, as they wait for their cargo to be cleared. And, it used to be $50 but it is now $35,” Nshuti said.
He added: “It is a Covid-19 facilitation fee. We don’t charge for the security escorts (from the border to other parts of mainland Rwanda). They shouldn’t see it as a trade barrier. It is a Covid-19 barrier, and, once Covid-19 is gone, everything will go back to normal.”
Meanwhile, Cassien Karangwa, Director of Domestic Trade in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), told The New Times that the fee is actually not $35 but Rwf35,000 per truck “and the related decision was communicated to different EAC forums before its implementation.”
Reduce quality inspection fees
The EABC is also insisting that “we should make use of the existing GPS monitoring,” which was set to replace testing of Covid-19 at the border points.
In a meeting with the Rusumo Joint Border Management Committee (BMC), the regional business community also urged for harmonization and reduction of quality inspection fees charged on goods by the Food and Drugs Authority in Rwanda.
Sources at the EABC indicated that they found that different Rwandan agencies actually charge for cost insurance and freight (CIF) differently. It is noted that while RICA charges 0.2% on a consignment, and the FDA charges 0.8%.
“So if you have 20 trucks with consignments, you pay 0.8% for each consignment,” said a source.
According to Karangwa, Rwanda FDA is under the Ministry of Health and, what the Ministry of Trade and Industry can do “after getting these complaints from EABC, is to engage all concerned institutions and find a solution” to the issue.
Minister Nshuti also noted that at a regional level, “we also have the same challenge where fees and charges especially on foods and drugs vary across” the region.
A study has been conducted to harmonize levies and fees in the region, the Minister noted.
“We are waiting for Tanzania comments on the study report.”
The EABC also called for the fast-tracking of the issuance of chemical permits by Tanzanian Authorities to reduce transit time at the border.
According to the EABC, the Rusumo OSBP is a strategic border point for the EAC as it accounts for more than 80% of imports into Rwanda through the Dar-es-Salaam port.
The OSBP was processing 400 trucks daily before the region recorded cases of the Covid-19 pandemic. The figure has now dropped to 235 trucks daily.
Dr Peter Mutuku Mathuki, Chief Executive Officer of the EABC, also appealed for the establishment of a joint cross border market by Rwanda and Tanzania to ease access to goods and facilitate payments and boost economic activities at the point to the advantage of traders and the community at the border.
Some of the major goods traded across the border include; construction material such as cement, iron and steel, processed goods such as cereals and sugar confectionery, edible vegetables and automobiles and parts.