Busia governor Dr Paul Otuoma called for a need to have an alternative route for trucks to access the Busia one-stop border post.
The governor shares his concern that the current road is not enough for over 2,000 trucks using the road and in case of an accident, it may render Busia town impassable.
Dr Otuoma noted that the 11-kilometre stretch from Mundika to Busia via Budokomi should be worked on to ease traffic congestion by trucks waiting to be cleared along the border post.
Addressing the delegates from Canada, Ireland, Danish high commissioners, and officers from the trademark East Africa during the courtesy call in his office Dr. Otuoma noted that as long as there are poor infrastructures in Busia town, there will be no meaningful achievement at the border point regardless of the resources pumped in.
“Busia county is the gateway of East and Central Africa. But with the current infrastructure, it will be difficult for us to achieve any meaningful step at the border point if we don’t work on infrastructures connecting the town to the border. In case of any stalemate at the border, the trucks congest the town for kilometres, which is risky. We need an alternative route that comes and leaves the town to sort out some of these problems we are facing along this road,” he noted.
“When Busia town is blocked from entry or exit, it will affect business across the East African community. By putting modern facilities at one stop border post and you forget the road going at the border, you are just choking the town. In case the facilities cannot work, the whole town will be impassable.”
“We need to give truck drivers a conducive environment where they can park and rest as they wait to be cleared. These are some challenges that if we collaborate well, we will make the one-stop border post have some efficiency and some human dignity.”
The governor noted that as a county they are trying their best to reorganize the town, but there is a need for support from other partners such as Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) to achieve their goals as a county.
“We are trying our best as a county, but there is a lot that is required. Currently, we are partnering with the National government to see that we fulfil the promises we gave to our people. Plans are underway to put up an industrial park at Nasewa to produce edible oil from locally produced crops,” he explained.
He added, “You have seen we are trying to reorganize the town, that means there has also been livelihood that has been affected, especially those in the formal sector but we need to do this, we need drainages, roads, but we need to quickly settle them so that their livelihood can come back to normal and by doing so we need to have modern kiosks for the traders.”
Chief of programs officer at Trademark East Africa Ms. Allen Asiimwe, trade at the border has improved since the construction of the one-stop border post.
She says with new facilities at the border, the number of trucks using the border increased from 800 to 2000.
“We recognize that for the last few years, a One-stop border post (OSBP) has been in place, and trade has shifted and grown. When we launched the OSBP we were doing only 800 trucks a day but now we are working with about 2,400 trucks a day and when you look at the projection of trade for the next few years from Mombasa right now, we are at 34M metric tons we are likely to increase to 44 M metric tons in the next 10 years,” she noted.
She further announced that as TMEA they are doing a lot of work on digitizing operations at OSBP to improve services at the border post, which includes installation of smart gates to allow trucks to cross all the way from Mombasa to Uganda without stopping at the border.
“We are doing a lot of work on digital reforms. As we speak, there is work going on at the border between the officers from the Kenya Revenue Authority, their Ugandan counterparts, and the TMEA to work on smart gates to allow trucks that are deemed safe to come all the way from Mombasa without stopping the border,” she noted
She promised to invest in a green economy by promoting cotton, grain, and horticultural farming to boost the economy of Busia County.
“We are going to do a lot of green work and value chain work. You will be happy to learn that cotton is a critical sector we have invested in, so we are going to work on grain and cotton, which is also of interest in Busia. We will work closely with you on this value chain and the work has already started,” she noted.
On development in Busia County, Ms Asilimwe noted that TMEA has set aside Sh200M to fund a feasibility study to expand Busia town.
“We are in discussion with other development partners for a move that improves the current infrastructure in Busia town that has been overrun by a huge number of trucks and tenfold trade growth at the border,” she noted
Others present were representatives of the permanent secretary Ministry of East Africa Community (EAC) Dr. Juma Wakhungu, Director- General of the Pan-African Affairs Bureau, global affairs Canada Ms. Susan Steffen, Ambassador of Ireland to Kenya H.E. Fionnuala Quinlan and Nairobi Danish Embassy Trade Counsellor and Trademark Africa Council of donors Chair, Mogens Strunge Larsen.