Uganda to abolish work permit fees for Kenya, Rwanda nationals


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President Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta (C) welcomed
President Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta (C) welcomed to Rwanda by host Paul Kagame (R) yesterday. Photo by PPU  
By  DANIEL K. KALINAKI

Posted  Tuesday, October 29  2013 at  02:00
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Kigali- Uganda will abolish work permit fees for Kenyans and Rwandan citizens from January 1, 2014, one of several reforms East African leaders launched yesterday to reduce the cost of doing business and speed up the movement of goods and people.
Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya met in Kigali yesterday to sign off on a Single Customs Territory (SCT) for the three countries. President Salva Kiir of South Sudan also attended the event, which followed earlier infrastructure summits in Kampala in June and Mombasa in August.
Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi did not attend the meeting. 
Under the SCT, tax on goods imported into the three countries will be paid at Mombasa and trucks weighed only on crossing the border. In theory, all the roadblocks from Mombasa to Kigali will be eliminated and the weighbridges reduced from nine to three at most.
The summit heard that a reduction in the number of roadblocks and weighbridges had reduced the time and cost of transporting goods from Mombasa to the interior.
The cost of transporting a 20-foot container from Mombasa to Kigali is also expected to drop from $383 to $193, resulting into savings of about $45 million annually.
“There is still a long way to go,” host President Kagame said, “but we are encouraged by the progress made so far.”
President Kenyatta, who has pushed for reforms at Mombasa Port and along the highway to Malaba, said Kenya is committed to the effort.
“Today is a very happy day for me,” he said on his first visit to Rwanda as President. “I am very excited about the progress made in such a short time.”
The summit heard that ground-breaking for construction of the standard-gauge railway from Mombasa to Kigali will take place next month although details about final cost and source of funds are still to be hammered out. 
Kenya has finalised financing for the Mombasa-Nairobi leg but Uganda’s Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka told this newspaper that the total cost of the project will be computed and money pooled with each country paying for its part of the railway.
Juba brought into the mix
A spur to Juba, South Sudan, will be added to the project once South Sudan confirms its interest.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were expected to announce the launch of a single tourist visa as early as next week at the World Travel Market tourism fair but the announcement is now expected at the next infrastructure summit – potentially in Juba, South Sudan – although the start date is still expected to be January 1, 2014.
Uganda’s decision to waive work permit fees follows similar moves by Uganda and Rwanda. Citizens of the two countries will still need to apply for permits but they will be issued free-of-charge.
South Sudan was formally admitted to the Coalition of the Willing – as the core of the three East African member states has come to be known – and President Salva Kiir said yesterday that East African citizens will now receive visas on arrival.
President Kiir indicated his country’s interest in building alliances away from Sudan by asking for a quick resolution of South Sudan’s application to join the East African Community, which will be discussed at next month’s Heads of State Summit.
Kenya and Rwanda have confirmed their interest in investing in the oil refinery in Uganda but work remains to be done on energy infrastructure projects between the three countries. The summit also agreed to manage air traffic jointly although this came short of a proposal to implement the open skies agreement to reduce the cost of flights in the region. -
The efforts
The three countries have made speedy progress over the last six months since the first infrastructure summit in Kampala and South Sudan has now been invited. They will have to establish how to bring South Sudan into play as Juba weighs between building a pipeline to Djibouti or joining the regional LAPSSET project. Technocrats from the countries have also been asked to find ways of linking the crude oil pipeline from Uganda into the wider LAPSSET project.


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