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Uganda Traders Differ on Route
By Justus Lyatuu, Citizen Correspondent, Kampala

The business community in Uganda is divided over the use of the Tanzanian route to overseas markets instead of Kenya's.

The group opposing it says it will lead to inflated prices of goods. On the other hand, supporters argue that it is an alternative they have overlooked for so long and an opportunity for the Ugandan economy.

The Kampala City Traders Association spokesman, Mr Issa Ssekito, said the route is viable, safe, more convenient and an alternative in case the Kenyan route is impassable.

"I have used it, and there is a slight increase in transport expenses, but I don't mind," he said in an interview last week.

He added: "I don''t think if we use the Tanzanian route we will have to increase prices of commodities since it is better to take a longer route than have a month-long delay."

The route, which will include rail, road and water transport, looks like an opportunity for Uganda. It is anticipated that it will reduce congestion at the Mombasa Port.

The Shell Uganda country manager, Mr Ivan Kyayonka, admitted that the route will be more expensive.

"It will cost an extra USh200 per litre of petrol," Mr Kyayonka pointed out.

However, since Shell is one of the biggest importers of fuel in the country, and if this route will cost an additional USh200 per litre, it is anticipated that the cost will be passed on to consumers.

State minister for Trade, Mr Gagawala Wambuzi, had another consideration, saying: "Though expensive, traders should consider the time they take at Mombasa."

He also explained that Uganda was given a port at the Tanzanian coast of Tanga but failed to develop it. So this is an opportunity that the government is taking seriously, he said.

On the issue of taxes, the minister explained that early next year all East African countries will be signing the Customs Union in which all countries will have a standard tax system.

"All matters related to taxes should be left to the Presidents of the five East African countries," he added.

In line with the above, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) boss, Ms Allen Kalian, said their would be no tax relief whether one uses the Mombassa, Malabar, Kampala route or the Dar as Salaam route.

"We do not have rates for Mombasa or other routes," she pointed out.

According to Tanzania authorities, Dar es Salaam port can handle 10.1 million tonnes of cargo. It consists of 3.1 million tonnes of general cargo, one million tonnes of containerised cargo and six million tonnes of liquid bulk cargo.

The Tanzania port has un-utilised space that can handle upto four million tonnes. Currently, of the 11 million tonnes only seven million tonnes are being utilised.
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