"Africa cannot afford to underestimate the power of technology to fast-track the continent's rise. Emerging technologies have played extraordinary roles in every aspect of the continent's most touted successes."
- Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria's Vice-President
East Africa appears to be picking up the pace as regards technology.
Uganda has made a move to embrace technology in solving the problems associated with border issues, especially smuggling. The regional integration law within East Africa has constituted in creating porous borders which promotes a lot of smuggling activities.
When dealing with smuggling, border officials can no longer depend on stop-and-search and/or verification of document correspondence alone as these have largely proved ineffective in recent times.
It is in this vein that the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has made a move to install a mobile cargo scanner at the busy Katuna border post to curb smuggling activities.
One advantage of the cargo scanner is that it will ensure that what is declared on the import and export documents correspondents is actually what was loaded into the containers.
It has become a common occurrence for smugglers to present fake documents regarding the true nature of what is in the containers they are transporting. They often get away with this trick as officials are unable to thoroughly check every single container due to the busy nature of the ports.
The officer in charge of URA customs office at Katuna border post, Mr. Emmanuel Bamanya, said that the cargo scanner started working this month and it will help in the clearance of cargo trucks and containers without necessarily offloading them.
“The cargo containers on trucks pass through the cargo scanner which scans all the goods contained therein, in a few minutes. The scanner quickly verifies the contents in the cargo containers and its operators ascertain whether what has been declared on papers is exactly what is in the cargo containers,” Mr. Bamanya said.
The chairman of the clearing agents at the Katuna border Mr. Sam Sserwanga last week welcomed the development saying that the mobile cargo scanner shall quicken the clearing of goods, adding that the manual method is not only time consuming but also tiresome for both clearing agents and the customs officials.
“Besides saving time in verifying imports and exports, the mobile cargo scanner shall strengthen the security of country because smuggled goods that threaten the national security shall immediately be detected before they cross into our country,” Mr. Sserwanga said, adding that the problem of smuggling will also be mitigated through this the new system.
However, for Mr. Samuel Mbabazi the councilor for Kinyongo ward in Katuna town council, the re-opening of the border has not benefited the local traders in the area since Ugandan goods are still being prohibited from entering into Rwanda and Rwandans are being stopped from entering into Uganda by the Rwandan authorities.
“The border has been re-opened for only transit goods that go to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” Mr. Mbabazi said, adding that his personal business of money changing has completely collapsed because of the restriction against Rwandans entering Uganda.
Header Image Credit: Robert Muhereza