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EAC integration requires free movement of goods and people – Hon. Ann

Author: Koang Pal Chang | Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Dr. Ann Itto, member of Parliament at the East African Legislative Assembly - File Photo courtesy

A South Sudanese Member of Parliament at the East African Legislative Assembly stressed the necessity of free movement of goods and people for regional integration.

Hon. Dr Ann Itto made remarks during the High-Level Joint Border Sensitization Mission at the Nimule/Elegu Border on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

Dr Ann mentioned in a statement on the EAC website that the Community had implemented several initiatives to promote trade and regional integration, with One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) being a key focus.

“If we do not have the free movement of goods and people, then we do not have integration,” she said.

“There is therefore urgent need to ensure there are facilities to effectively facilitate trade on both sides of the Elegu/Nimule border,” said Hon. Itto.

The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Ms. Annette Ssemuwemba praised border agencies for their dedication despite challenges in fulfilling their duties.

The Deputy Secretary-General stated that the EAC Secretariat will collaborate with Uganda and South Sudan to develop strategies for improving operations at the Elegu/Nimule border.

“The Secretariat has taken note of all challenges raised and recommendations offered for improved trade facilitation,” she said.

“We shall develop an action plan that incorporates all issues raised, stakeholders charged with ironing out these issues and the implementation timeframe – short, medium and long term,” added Ms Ssemuwemba.

Ms Ssemuwemba stressed the importance of infrastructure development, IT systems connectivity, and facilities for women traders for sustainable progress at the border.

South Sudan’s Under Secretary for EAC Affairs, Beny Gideon Mabor, highlighted discussions on the Customs Union and Common Market as key aspects of the EAC integration agenda.

“We have identified several challenges impeding the seamless functioning of OSBPs, ranging from issues within the mandate of Partner States to logistical hurdles,” said the Under Secretary.

“The Government of the Republic of South Sudan is committed to addressing these challenges by implementing necessary measures to operationalise OSBPs,” said Hon. Mabor.

“I recognise that certain decisions can be expedited without the need for OSBP structures, we pledge to implement these with urgency,” he added.

The Advisor to the Minister of Trade and Industry in South Sudan, Hon. Simon Nyang, said that the OSBP review meeting was critical to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

He added that the Ministry will strive to implement the recommendations of the meeting.

Speaking at the event, Uganda’s 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of EAC Affairs, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, hailed the diligent efforts of all border agencies in facilitating the movement of goods.

Hon. Kadaga underscored the urgent need for South Sudan to expedite the implementation of the EAC Customs Union Protocol.

“This acceleration is imperative in ensuring citizens enjoy the full benefits of the EAC integration,” said the Minister.

“In areas where legislative frameworks to facilitate the implementation of the Customs Union remain pending, I implore the Republic of South Sudan to actively seek support from the EAC Secretariat to conclude the same,” said Hon. Kadaga.

The Minister reaffirmed Uganda’s commitment to ensure enhanced collaboration of the border agencies from the two Partner States.

“Collaborative efforts are indispensable to navigate the complexities of integration, with a collective focus on ensuring tangible benefits for the populace,” she said.

On April 9, 2024, officials and stakeholders from Uganda and South Sudan convened at Nimule Border for a joint mission to improve cross-border trade and regional integration.

The mission provided a platform for in-depth discussions on various issues impacting trade between the two Partner States.

It also focuses on the implementation of One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) and other trade facilitation measures.

A key highlight of the mission was the in-depth review of the performance of the OSBPs, which aim to streamline clearance processes and enhance security measures at border points.

Stakeholders underscored the importance of consolidating various government agencies into one central location to expedite clearance times and simplify procedures for cross-border traders.

Presentations from both Partner States’ delegations revealed a significant increase in traffic between the two countries, highlighting the growing importance of efficient trade facilitation measures.

Despite progress, challenges such as differing operational hours and tax regimes were identified, emphasising the need for harmonisation and coordination between border authorities to ensure smoother trade operations.

Stakeholders emphasized the importance of understanding OSBP procedures, gender-sensitive integration, and addressing environmental challenges, such as frequent floods in the Elegu/Nimule area, to enhance trade activities.

Other key recommendations included the need for capacity building for traders to fully appreciate and experience the benefits of the EAC integration and infrastructure development to support cross-border trade.

The Elegu/Nimule border mission served as a testament to the shared commitment by both Uganda and South Sudan towards strengthening cross-border trade and advancing regional cooperation.

The stakeholder engagement session was preceded by an inspection of the Elegu and Nimule OSBPs.

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