The Rwanda-Uganda border was reopened on 31st January 2022, following the closure of the border for about two years. The move to reopen the Katuna border, which has been among the critical issues at the centre of relations between the two countries, is a significant relief to the business community that has endured two years of trade disruption. The Katuna border reopening is great news for the Private Sector and Trade, opening up a chance to export Ugandan products. The Ugandan trade fraternity should resolve pending issues between Rwanda and Uganda to speedy normalize relations between the two countries.
There have been complaints about delays in crossing at the Katuna border, spotlighting that even with the reopening, more needs to be addressed. After three years of closure, there has been a general breakdown in bilateral trade. The morale among exporters is particularly low, and infrastructure is in disrepair. But with the opening of the border, trade volume is expected between the two countries. The major concern is now for both countries to rethink their prevalent trade policies and practices to flourish free trade.
For Uganda, improving infrastructure at the side of the border would go a long way to increase trade volume between the countries. There is a need to rehabilitate cracked parts of the Kabale-Katuna Highway that leads to the border. The potholes and mud have blocked heavy trucks, thereby hindering adequate transportation. Infrastructure enhances connectivity and encourages the number of exports. Boosting infrastructure would ensure that Uganda performs better in inter-state trade.
Uganda should focus on increasing security in the Katuna area. Ensuring adequate border security and management is essential for preventing and countering the flow of suspected insurgents. Border security and management are imperative to curb the illicit cross-border movement. Both countries have a flourishing tourism industry, and activities like gorilla trekking cut across the borders. Therefore, it is essential to warrant security for crossing tourists. Giving Border Patrol sensor technology and having more security personnel available to search vehicles can improve safety.
The unionisation of Ugandan exporters would boost the lagging trade at the border. Upon reopening, business at the border has been slow. To increase the volume of trade to Rwanda, the Uganda government should incentivize exporters to unionise. The formation of trade unions would bring about collective bargaining and increase bargaining power on the market. Ultimately, unionising would increase the price of Ugandan products in the Rwandan market, thereby boosting morale and productivity among traders.
The opening of the Katuna border is an opportunity to strengthen bilateral ties between the two states. The renewed free movement of goods and services would accelerate economic development. However, Uganda must revise its trade policies for free trade to blossom.
Preta Peace Namasaba is a writing fellow at the African Liberty