Rwanda has put in place a cross- border cargo transit logistics platform that will facilitate safe movement of goods and services from neighboring Tanzania.
As part of the country’s Covid-19 prevention and safety measures, Rwanda has established the Kiyanzi logistics platform in Kirehe district, which has a capacity to handle 150 trucks a day.
It emerged that truck drivers and their assistants from the region, including Tanzania were largely affected by COVID-19.
To avoid further contamination, cross border truck drivers entering Rwanda have to clear customs at the border posts and to be tested so that their COVID-19 status is established.
At this Rusumo border, after testing for Covid-19, the drivers proceed to clear their goods at the newly established Kiyanzi station where they get all custom services as their trucks are decontaminated by a team from the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC).
Rosine Uwamariya, the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) Commissioner for Customs Services said that this takes less than an hour.
“This makes it easy for the cargo transporters because all the declaration paperwork is done before they load trucks. We are working 24/7 to make sure that the clearance is quick to allow drivers to return home without delays,” Uwamariya said.
Kiyanzi site in Nyamugari sector, Kiyanzi village serves as a customs logistical point where trans- border truck drivers also have warehouse facility to store their goods (about 100 containers), sanitary services, and accommodation needs among others.
At the one hectare site, located on the Rusumo-Kigali highway, which started operating early this week, one can see truck drivers cooking food they carried with them on a three day journey before entering Rwanda.
The mood at the site looks calm as drivers and their assistants are seen cooking, chatting in groups while others stand near their trucks which are marked with placards reading “Kiyanzi driver swap”, “decontaminated” waiting for the next move.
Trucks marked as “Kiyanzi driver swap” are those waiting for a driver from Rwanda to take over the following journey to the cargo destination.
In fact, a directive of Rwanda Revenue Authority last week required that every truck should have two drivers including one from the neighboring country who will bring the cargo up to the border post and his counterpart who will take over from there.
While Tanzanian truck drivers appreciate the swap system, they suggest that more work needs to be done on logistics coordination between both countries to ease trade under coronavirus.
“If for example fellow drivers from Tanzania could be able to stay and work from Rwanda so that we can swap with them, this would reduce the time spent on the journey,” said Juma Pazi, a truck driver.
Rwandan swap driver, Jean de Dieu Tuyisenge, said that this is an opportunity one cannot afford to mess up with poor delivery.
” We shall deliver to the expectations to build trust,” Tuyisenge who earns Rwf 60,000 on a return trip Rusumo-Kigali-Rusumo says.
Meanwhile, trucks with the label “decontaminated” are cleared ones and have already another driver to continue driving from Rusumo to the designated offloading point.
Other trucks that are already decontaminated but don’t need a swap driver are seen transshipping or offloading to the three warehouses at the site.
For Uwamariya, it is too early to determine how effective the site will become but she is sure of one thing that offering digital customs clearance services have improved and reduced trade barriers especially for trade on the Rusumo border which handles 80% of the trade between Rwanda and neighboring Tanzania.
To allow smooth transport, the Rwanda Private Sector Federation has provided 50 drivers per day to swap with truck drivers crossing through the Rusumo border.
The same thing happens with other borders with Uganda, but at a small scale, according to Commissioner Uwamariya.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health on Thursday announced 18 new COVID-19 cases out of 1, 140 samples tested in 24hrs.
The new cases brought the total to 243 while recoveries are now 104 after 6 new recoveries were announced. Active cases are now 139 and no deaths.
The new cases are the latest in the increasing number of cases registered in recent days, attributed to cross-border truck drivers and their assistants as Rwanda takes measures to limit their entry.
Meanwhile, Fred Seka, chairman of Federation for East Africa Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) said that there must be harmonization of activities on all sides of East Africa Community Member States.
“Similar logistics platforms and coordination of logistics companies must be put on other borders so that if drivers crossing to Rwanda are safe they can return home and be assured the cargo is delivered by their counterparts in Rwanda, no matter if they are Rwandans or Tanzanians,” Seka said.