Border Inter-Counties Forum opens in Kisumu for Kisumu, Migori, Narok and Homa Bay Counties on Regional Integration-Harmonization of Laws, rules and regulations on cross-border trade.

A three-day forum in the regional integration and harmonization of laws, regulations and cross border trade amongst the four counties of Narok, Migori, Homa Bay and Kisumu Counties opened in a Kisumu hotel.

State Department of East African Affairs Principal Secretary Mr. John O. Konchellah opened the forum with a call on border counties to take the lead in mobilizing resources to improve border markets among other infrastructure initiatives to enable communities that boarder Kenya’s neighbours benefit from the liberalized Intra-trade regime.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Integration Secretary Mr. Barrack Ndegwa, Mr. Konchellah said the National government had already taken the first initiative by modernizing the country’s borders through the construction of One Stop Border Posts facilities at all major border points in liaison with the EAC Partner States in order to improve movement of goods and persons. “Once OSSBPS are launched, they will reduce the time taken to clear cargo and persons’’, remarked the Principal Secretary.

He said the forum was coming at a time that the country was focusing on developing institutions that support devolution. Devolution, he added, was the centerpiece of devolution in decentralization of power and resources from the centre to the periphery with the ultimate objective of empowering at the grass root to determine their own course of development.

Mr. Konchellah assured that the Integration journey was on course, and EAC had achieved milestones in the short period that the organization existed. “We established the Customs Union in 2005 and progressively implemented its provisions that were completed in 2010’’, he said. Key components of Customs Union are free movement of goods manufactured in the region and establishment of the Single Customs Union.

The objective of the Single Customs Territory is to speed up circulation of goods within the Community by collapsing national borders. This means that Goods entering the region will pay duty at the first port of entry and thereafter circulate freely within the region. Mr. Konchellah pointed out that Single Customs territory leads to increased Intra-regional trade and would help .EA gain more from its resources.

Commenting on the challenges posed by the Non-tarrif Barriers(NTBs) in the Integration process, Mr. Konchellah said they constituted prolonged formalities, multiplicity of institutions, duplication of clearance processes, limited capacity at the border posts, technical requirements and travel restrictions and local charges imposed on transit trucks and cross boarder traders among others.

Mr. ndegwa said border counties will be empowered with information to enable them seize opportunities due to them for the benefit of their communities.

According to an Integration officer Mr. Juma Wakhungu, the objective of the forum is to build consensus on harmonization of Border Counties on rules, laws on cross border and regional trade. Participants will also develop shared vision on how counties and regional governments can work towards promoting national interests in the region.

Mr. Alfred Kitolo of the State Department of East African warned counties not to impose any tax on goods passing through the country destined within the EAC region, so that it does not attract hue and cry from Kenya’s neighbors. Fourth schedule of our constitution empowers counties to initiate trade development and regulation, including markets, trade licenses for trading practices, local tourism, but do not allow regulations that will stifle EAC Integration.

Homa Bay County Commissioner Mr. John Mung’athia said lessons learnt from the forum will help institutions increase volume of trade, faster processing of goods and services, and help to establish good working relationships including cooperation structures with the ministry and counties that boarder Kenya’s neighbours.