Trademark East Africa (TMEA) has launched the process of setting up a logistics centre in Gulu town to facilitate trade between Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
Speaking to journalists at their offices in Kampala this morning, TMEA country director Moses Sabiiti said the organization has already secured $8m (Shs 28.8bn) from United Kingdom’s Department for Foreign Aid (DFID) and European Union for the world-class facility.
“The hub will be able to handle 500,000 containers at one time, making it one of its kind in the region,” Sabiiti said.
He explained that the Gulu Logistics Hub will be located at the current grounds of Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) – an intersession between road and railway.
This land was given to TMEA – a not-for profit company established in 2010 to support the growth of trade in East Africa – by the Uganda government for this sole purpose. He said the design works have started and the subsequent works will be tendered out in June after the designs are complete.
“Our aim is to change the job market in northern Uganda as we hope to create more jobs in the area. This will complement with government’s plan to rehabilitate and expand Gulu Airport, that will make easy importation of goods in and out of the region,” he said.
According to Sabiiti, all merchandise going to South Sudan and DRC will go through this hub. Even relief supplies from World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) will be stored here.
“In addition, there are processors based in Gulu, like Mukwano Industries, grain and tobacco farmers; we did a feasibility study and found that there is a need for a hub to facilitate the trade there,” Sabiiti said.
Automating Entebbe airport
In another development, TMEA has announced that it will contribute to the automation of Entebbe airport in order to fasten the clearing of goods.
“You have been following the expansions, improvements and the rating [of Entebbe] in traffic but what I can tell you is that our airport in terms of clearance time, compared to other countries in the region, is still very slow,” he said.
Sabiiti noted that although majority of other countries are able to do pre-import clearance of goods, it is impossible at Entebbe airport as it is still done manually.
“We want to support government and the ministry of Trade and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to do the automation of the airport facility; we will contribute to advanced clearance of goods,” he said.
If this is achieved, goods will be easily cleared from countries such as China before they land at Entebbe airport; this will fasten the whole process of clearing.
In order to improve the business environment in the region, the five partner states of the East African Community agreed to work together and boost economic ties, as well as put in place facilities to reduce the cost of trade in the region.
Among the many initiatives implemented is the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) concept, which has boosted trade facilitation across borders by harmonizing border control regulations and procedures and, thus, enabling expeditious and more effective border control mechanisms.
The initiative has also reduced the number of stops by consignments at border posts and other transactions by combining border control activities at a single location. This means that there are no repetitions of clearing procedures.
Such projects by the EAC countries have been implemented successfully by employing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to ease the sharing of data that is useful in border control operations.