By Meresia Aloo

Kenya is hoping that a deal with Uganda would help alleviate a traffic jam at the Malaba border, which has been causing mixed reactions for the past week.

Uganda has limited the validity of the Covid-19 certificate to 72 hours, in contrast to other member states’ use of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS), which allows for Covid-19 testing after 14 days.

According to Uganda, the move was made to prevent the spread of the Omicron form, which has a shorter incubation period.

It was also charging $30 (Sh3,399) every test, which sparked outrage among truckers hauling freight between Mombasa and the hinterlands, particularly Kampala, which accounts for 83 percent of transit products through Kenya’s port.

The price violates an EAC agreement under which Kenya and Rwanda have been testing drivers for free since mid-2021, when the EAC Health Ministries agreed to split the expense.

According to the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, traffic on the Kenyan side of the border had built up to 40 kilometres by Monday (KIFWA).

Transporters have stated that the 72-hour time difference between Mombasa and Malaba is inconvenient. They were likewise opposed to test-related charges.

Due to the backlog and delayed cross-border traffic, truck turnaround times between Mombasa and Kampala have increased to more than 10 days, up from an average of three to four days, threatening to clog the Mombasa Port.

The delays have affected Ugandan industries that import raw materials and firms that deal with imports.

However, on Monday, Uganda, South Sudan, and Rwanda eased their positions at an inter-ministerial conference convened by Kenya’s East African Community and Regional Development CS Adan Mohamed.

Transport, health, EAC ministries, and transportation and logistics stakeholders were also present during the virtual summit.

Speaking to a local publication in Kenya, Cabinet secretary Amina Mohammed noted that the Republic of Kenya should respect each country’s decision however, allowing vehicles to move within 14 days is not practical.

More than 3,000 trucks have failed to make return trips between Malaba, Kampala, and Sudan, exposing agents to demurrage costs from waiting ships.

This is a fee paid to the owner of a chartered ship if the ship is not loaded or discharged within the agreed-upon time frame.

Uganda continues to be Kenya’s most important export market.

According to the latest data from Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics, exports totalled Sh59.9 billion in the ten months leading up to October of last year.