Countries that connect to the rest of the world through Kenya have launched an electronic platform to monitor cargo clearance online at the port of Mombasa, hoping to pile pressure on officials to cut delays.
The northern corridor transport observatory project launched in Mombasa on Thursday will also monitor speed of clearance by customs, standards bodies and weighbridges of member countries.
Under the project, a data centre based at Mombasa headquarters of Northern Corridor Transit Transport Coordination Authority (TTCA) will be collecting information detailing time spent at every agency.
At the port of Mombasa, the project seeks to reduce cargo dwell time (time taken from arrival to discharge of container) from 10 days to just one day, a council of Regional Affairs and Transport ministers said Thursday.
“This project is a key tool towards improving the performance of the Northern Corridor” said Abraham James Byandala, Uganda's Works and Transport minister and chairman of TTCA Council of Ministers.
Northern Corridor links Kenya with most of the landlocked countries in the region like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.
While the countries have formed the Mombasa-headquartered Northern Corridor Transit Transport Coordination Authority (TTCA) to boost flow of imports and exports, traders still encounter barriers.
The council of ministers admitted South Sudan to the secretariat that runs TTCA Thursday, meaning only Ethiopia and Tanzania are major users of the corridor not represented at the intergovernmental body.
Available data shows that the corridor handles 21.5 million tonnes of cargo every year. Only 12.5 million of this is destined to Kenya will the rest on transit to other countries. With under performing rail system, 95 per cent of this cargo is ferried on roads, leading to delays at weighbridges in a region which prescribes different national weight limits.
At the ceremony to launch the observatory, players criticised the use of regulatory agencies are primary information source saying this could compromise data integrity.
But TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and the Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) which are sponsoring the project maintained that the GPS-based initiative will improve trade and policy formulation.
“Through the observatory data, it will be possible to identify bottlenecks and choke points on the Northern Corridor,” said Mr David Stanton, TMEA’s deputy CEO in charge of country programmes.
The project seeking to speed up movement of goods comes just months after Rwanda became the first country in the region to launch single electronic window system that once completed will also cut documentation related to imports and exports.
Kenya has also begun to roll out its single electronic window system after receiving funding from Investment Climate Facility last week.
“The Transport observatory is critical as an operational tool for monitoring corridor performance as problems that cannot be measured are extremely hard to find solutions for.” said Mr Stanton.
In its five-year strategic plan released Thursday, TTCA says its key focus would be to reduce cost of doing business on the Northern Corridor through harmonisation of transport policies and regulations and simplification of trade procedures.