The new guidelines on the entry and exit of vehicles in and out of South Sudan threatens to again disrupt trade and travel between the country and its East African neighbours.
The Government in Juba has notified all those intending to enter the country that starting March 1st, 2022, all vehicles will pay an annual fee of 100 US dollars (about 360,000 Ugandan Shillings), and an “entry fee” 30 dollars (about 108,000 shillings) every time they enter or exit.
The East African Business Council (EABC) has now petitioned the South Sudan’s Ministry of Interior to ensure that vehicles from the EAC are exempted from this new charge.
The public notice by the Ministry is due to take effect in March 1st this year.
It aims “to enhance security measures at the border checkpoints by automated data collection, analysis, digital tagging and license plate recognition,” according to the ministry.
The EABC says the high fees will affect trade and the general regional economic progress.
“The charges are exorbitantly high and will increase the cost of doing cross-border business in the EAC especially transportation and logistics costs as well as set back the efforts being made for the region to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19,” says the EABC.
The new development takes the trade and business and movement of persons between S Sudan and the wider EAC a step back. In October last year, Uganda announced the waiver of the 50 dollar visa fee for South Sudanese crossing the border, on condition that Juba reciprocated within 30 days (to which they agreed).
Currently, East Africans are permitted to drive private cars across borders in the EAC region without paying for visits that do not last more than seven days.
However, this new move creates a new non-tariff barrier to regional trade which has remained at about 17 percent, compared to trade within other blocs.
“Additionally, S Sudan’s new charges contravene the spirit of the EAC Customs Union and Common Market protocols and thus impede the ease of doing business in South Sudan making products manufactured in the EAC bloc for export to South Sudan un-competitive,” says the EABC petition.
In 2019, South Sudan goods export to the other EAC Partner States reached 6.8 million dollars, while imports reached 226 million, according to the EAC Trade and Investment report 2020. This was after trade and travel had been disrupted by fresh armed conflicts there, resulting in the killing of truck drivers and travelers to the country.
A repeat of such incidents last year prompted truckers to park their trucks at Elegu for weeks in protest before the Government of South Sudan announced measures to protect truck drivers.
“Therefore, eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers and other charges of equivalent effects underpins faster growth and resilience of intra-EAC trade amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” says the business community.
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