The recent drastic growth in trade activities between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the Mpondwe border point in Western Uganda’s Kasese district is set to be facilitated even further with the construction of Mpondwe Border Export Zone (BEZ) and One-Stop Border Post (OSBP), Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde has said.
Kyambadde made the remarks yesterday while officiating at the groundbreaking ceremony for Mpondwe OSBP, where she expressed hope that the facility will enhance revenue for both importers and exporters.
The minister remarked that trade volumes at the border point have grown exponentially over the past five years, with the total value of goods going through Mpondwe rising from Shs 196.8 bn in 2015 to Shs 1.022 tn in 2020.
“Export volumes from Uganda to the DRC have grown by 52.5%, from Shs 199 bn in 2015 to Shs 304 bn in 2020, while import volumes have also grown by 12.7% from Shs 3 bn in 2015 to Shs 3.382 bn in 2020,” she added.
Funded with support from the World Bank under the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project, OSBPs has been touted as a potential boost to efficiency in conducting trade at Uganda’s various border points, infamous for bureaucratic delays.
“We envisage a holistic border management where all border agencies will harmonize their controls and roles to increase efficiency and thus reduce the high transaction costs and delays that have been the case,” Minister Kyambadde said.
Earlier, the Minister for Works and Transport, Gen. Katumba Wamala, pledged that government will invest in improving the road network in the area in order to facilitate trade.
“We are going to rehabilitate the Kasese –Mpondwe highway as the government plans to cross to Congo to improve on the road network there. The one-stop border point will have linkages to the two countries, “Gen. Katumba said.
He also advised the contractors to include the water hydrants at the facility given past experiences of fires destroying people’s properties.
The Mpondwe –lhubiriha Town Council Chairperson, Sylvester Masereka Mapoze, seconded Katumba’s call for a fire hydrant, saying that the Town council registered three different incidents of fire in the recent past.
“We know that once this facility is complete, it will attract many people with valuable goods that must be protected, but we face the challenge of a fire brigade,” Mapoze said.
Katumba also cautioned the contractor to be mindful of the safety and well-being of both their workers and the community so as not to jeopardize funding for the project.
“Once social safety issues are compromised, the World Bank will withdraw its funding immediately,” he warned.
Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General, John Musinguzi, who was represented by Assistant Commissioner Field Officer Asan Kigozi Kisubi, revealed that URA is the lead agency in the construction of the OSBP.
“This point will ease trade since all government agencies will be found under a one-stop center. It will facilitate our traders to grow the economy because of increased trade with Butembo and Beni [towns in Eastern DRC],” he noted.
It is expected that the Mpondwe Border Export Zone and One-Stop Border Post will be completed within the next 12 and 18 months, respectively.
So far, six OSBP’s have been constructed at Busia, Malaba, Mutukula, Mirama Hills, Katuna, and Elegu. In total, government targets to have 18 constructed before 2026, according to the trade minister.
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