THE East African Business Council (EABC) has called upon South Sudan to stop charging visa entry fees on any East African Community (EAC) partner states and instead prefer the use of national identity cards as travelling documents across the region.
The call was made by Dr Peter Mathuki who is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the regional apex body of private sector associations and corporates from the six EAC member states
“As it is now, South Sudan still charges visa fees to EAC citizens from EAC Partner States which do not have a bilateral agreement, with the country. We also urge South Sudan to join Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to use National IDs as travel documents,” noted Dr Mathuki.
He issued the call after a visit to the Nimule - Elegu One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) on Wednesday.
EABC in collaboration with the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and the South Sudan Chamber of Commerce held a meeting with the Joint Border Management Committee, deliberating on sustainable solutions on issues affecting the flow of goods and movement of persons at the border post.
Dr Mathuki noted that only the Ugandan side of the OSBP is operational, calling for the full operationalization of the NimuleElegu OSBP.
That is set to expedite the movement of goods and people and reduce transport costs across national boundaries. The impact of Covid-19 has seen the value of trade between Uganda and South Sudan decline.
From January to September 2020, the value of trade between the two countries stood at $225.45 million while in January to September 2019, the value of trade stood at $243 .3 million, a drop of $17.8 Million.
EABC is also calling for the removal of the $50 Covid-19 testing fees, which cross border traders say is worsening their cost of doing business.
Dr Mathuki urged border officials to make information on the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) accessible to traders to enable them to benefit from the regional preferential treatment when importing or exporting goods within the region.
The Nimule-Elegu OSBP is the main border post between South Sudan and Uganda and the busiest land border in South Sudan where most goods imported from Uganda are processed. The OSBP has been recording an average of 160 trucks crossing the border daily.
Some of the major goods traded using the borders include; cereals, sugars and sugar confectionery, milling products, vegetable fats and oils, edible vegetables and beverages.
Speaking during the event, the traders also asked officials from the Ministry of EAC in Uganda to engage the Ministry of Works and Transport, Uganda to come up with containment measures of the floods that continue to disrupt trade at the border.
The EABC is out to foster the interests of the private sector in the integration process of the EAC.
Its vision is a borderless East Africa for business and investment. The primary mission is to promote sustainable private sector driven in the bloc.