Traders decry long clearance processes on Kenya-TZ border

horohoro kwale border point

Cross border traders during a stakeholders meeting with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) at the Horohoro One Stop Border Point in Kwale County on November 22, 2021. The traders were taken through steps to follow to legally ferry goods across the Kenya-Tanzania Border.

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group

Traders on the Kenya-Tanzania border in Lungalunga, Kwale County, have decried long clearance processes, prompting them to use alternative routes to ferry their goods and denying the government revenue.

Speaking during a sensitisation campaign organised by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) at Horohoro on Monday, they said certifications needed for cross-border trade make them avoid using one-stop border posts.

Such border posts were envisioned to help deepen policy integration and reduce barriers to trade between Kenya and its neighbours.

Cross Border Traders Association secretary Zipporah Kamau said lack of information had also made it difficult for traders to conduct business in legal ways. 

"Many traders use illegal routes because they are scared. They do not have passports and they don't know how much it costs to cross the border and also lack other necessary certifications that we are unaware of," she said. 

The challenges come as traders claim the Covid-19 pandemic and drought in most parts of the Coast region have made it difficult for them to sell fruits and food items in Tanzania.

However, KRA Southern Region cross-border trade Chief Manager Agatha Munyaka said other than enforcement, the agency seeks to educate traders on the legal processes that must be followed. 

Tanzania is traditionally one of Kenya’s biggest trading partners in Africa, with annual volumes of about Sh45 billion.

"Sometimes people use the illegal routes because they do not understand the processes and the traders have just admitted it. But we have asked them to come back to legal trade and we will facilitate their needs," she said.

She added that many times traders avoid legal trading with their neighbours because of the taxes to be paid.

But she explained that some of the goods that traders smuggle do not attract customs duty, as they originate from an East Africa Community (EAC) country, a condition that should ideally encourage more traders to use one-stop border posts.

These include tomatoes, maize, beans, fruits and vegetables. But a simplified certificate of origin is needed to prove that the goods originate from the EAC country.

Passing the goods through the border point, Ms Munyaka said, would also help KRA determine their value and keep account of products being traded across the border.

Though KRA loses millions due to illegal trade, the agency said it is impossible to estimate the exact losses as a result of smuggling.

"Because it is something that is done discreetly, we do not have an idea and can't give a figure of the losses," she said.

The sensitisation campaign comes after reports of laxity in government agencies that has allowed smuggling to increase.

Cartels who have mastered border points are known to use their own transport to ferry goods from Tanzania to other towns.

The most smuggled goods are sugar, powder soap and clothes, which are sold cheaply in Tanzania. Others include soft drinks, water and alcohol.

Two weeks ago, KRA officers confiscated 65 bags of powder soap weighing 795kg. It had been imported illegally from Tanzania via Vanga township.

KRA Southern Region Coordinator Joseph Tanui said if the soap had reached the local market, the government would have lost Sh96,354 in taxes.

Shimoni is among three official border points in the South Coast where illicit trade takes place. There are, however, five unmanned entry points: Kibuyuni, Mazaro, Bati, Kiwambale and Mwambale. There’s only one Kenya Revenue Authority checkpoint.

The other points are Vanga and Lungalunga, where there is a one-stop border point. Unscrupulous traders have taken advantage of the weak Lungalunga, Vanga and Shimoni border points to smuggle contraband goods.