For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Jul 26th 2015
The EastAfrican 40 BUSINESS JULY 25-31,2015 Inc≥eased visa fees in Uganda ≥aise questions about t≥avel in the ≥egion COMMENTARY ROBERT ASWANI “At first glance, Uganda’s decision is not contradictory to the EAC Common Market Protocol.” Although it is not unusual for countries to increase their visa fees, doubling them raises some serious concerns. In the case of Uganda, we should be concerned about the country’s attitude towards investment and tourism, as well as its alignment with the EAC’s Common Market Protocol. Uganda’s decision reignites I the age-old debate about state sovereignty. The debate’s underlying issue is the extent to which states retain their sovereignty when they join a commonwealth of states, in this case the EAC. We can evaluate Uganda’s decision as an act of a sovereign state, whereby immigration policy is a state’s right. But Uganda has also signed the EAC Common Market Protocol, which outlines the immigration roadmap for the region. The freedoms granted in the Protocol include free movement of persons, goods, labour, services and capital and the right to establishment and residence. One product of the protocol is the East African Tourist Visa. The visa was negotiated by partner states to allow non-EAC visitors to traverse the economic bloc without the necessity of obtaining entry visas for each partner state upon payment of $100. Within the EAC, a model of sharing visa fees has been n early July, Uganda doubled the visa entry fees from $50 to $100 for all non-tourist visitors. agreed upon. However, this decision has not been fully implemented by all the partner states. This will mean that a tourist visiting Uganda will have to pay just as much as one who visits the country, but with the option of going to other countries in the region courtesy of the single tourist visa. At first glance, Uganda’s deci- sion is not contradictory to the Common Market Protocol. After all, EAC citizens are exempted from visa requirements within the region so the impact only affects travellers from outside the bloc. However, the EU-modelled EAC also seeks economic development over and above integration. Whereas it may be admirable to have a political federation, it is more desirable to develop an economically thriving region. A decision by one partner state impacts the other states as well as the larger region. The doubled fee for visas to Uganda posits several hypothetical trajectories for Kenya and other EAC policymakers. Kenya has positioned itself as a qualityoriented tourist destination, but has suffered a series of insecurity incidents. Should Kenya also consider increasing the visa fees on the basis of revenue requirements and more effective deterrence of improperly documented persons? In line with the EAC integration agenda, Kenya may instead Uganda Pension Bill put on hold By DICTA ASIIMWE Special Correspondent INVESTORS PLANNING to tap into a liberalised pension sector in Uganda face further uncertainty as legislators seek ways to protect the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). This follows the withdrawal of the Pension Sector Liberalisation Bill from the order paper, as parliament debates new ways to protect the national scheme. Tim Lwanga, a member of the finance committee that has been studying models for Uganda to follow in liberalising its pension sector, told The EastAfrican that the Bill was taken off the order paper in order to reconsider how much of the Ugandan contributors’ funds can be liberalised. A report on liberalising opt to rally partner states to standardise the different entry visa fees charged by the respective countries in the region. Under this arrangement, partner states will have the option of either adjusting the fees upward or having the entire region charge visa fees at the current levels. Such a discussion would require the support of each state since the decision has to be arrived at by consensus. These hypothetical trajectories for visa fees policymaking should be evaluated for efficacy, efficiency and alignment to protocols and the objectives of integration. State sovereignty alone is not justification enough for a decision that impacts a wider region. In Kenya, policymakers should make sense of Uganda’s position and act accordingly. Robert Aswani is a manager with PwC Kenya’s human resource solutions-visa unit in tax services. Rwanda, Bu≥undi, Tanzania plan joint ≥ailway p≥oject By KENNEDY SENELWA Special Correspondent RWANDA, BURUNDI and Tanzania are looking for investors to participate in building of new 1,661km standard gauge railway expected to cost about $7.6 billion. The partners, through the Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA), are seeking expressions of interest from firms to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the railway under a public private partnership. Kenya is already building an SGR. Sources privy to the project said Rwanda is considering shifting from the longer SGR rail set to traverse Kenya and Uganda to the proposed shorter Central Corridor facility from Dar es Salaam to Isaka in northern Tanzania. Expression of interest for the Dar es Salaam-IsakaKigali-Keza-Musongati (DIKKM) rail, which is a high priority project within the framework of East African Railway Master Plan, closes at 11am on August 14. RTDA director general Guy Kalisa said interested firms will be evaluated to shortlist potential private partners prior to issuing the request for proposal documents for the project. The new standard gauge railway line is to be constructed from Dar es Salaam to Isaka in northern Tanzania and Kigali in Rwanda with a link to Burundi running from Keza to Musongati through Gitega. CPCS Transcom International Ltd is the transaction adviser for $7.6b the railway. It will handle freight trains with axle loads of 32.4 tonnes and train lengths of 2,000 metres. In August 2013, Kenya, Estimated cost of a standard gauge railway linking Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. Uganda and Rwanda signed a tripartite agreement to fasttrack the development of the SGR. Kenyan Ministry of Transport officials had said that Uganda’s priority was on the segment from Malaba to Kampala, followed by the northern segment from Tororo to Pakwach through Gulu because of business interest in South Sudan. However, last week, The Independent reported that, according to sources, although Kampala remains committed to the SGR line project to Kigali, it has decided to fund construction of the Tororo-Gulu Pakwach line first because of the big economic interests the country has in South Sudan. “Uganda wants to consider South Sudan because it is a bigger market, and this will definitely delay the UgandaRwanda line,” a Rwanda government official said. In June 2014, Rwanda and Uganda signed an $8.6 million contract with German consulting firm Gauff Ingenieure Consultancy Services to design the SGR line between Kampala and Kigali. the pension sector was supposed to have been tabled on June 24, so that the Bill could be passed. Mr Lwanga said parliament is still uncomfortable with passing a law that would see NSSF lose a large percentage of its income. Currently, NSSF collects 15 per cent in mandatory pension savings from Ugandan workers and their employers. Since 2011, the Uganda government, working with donors like the World Bank, has been attempting to pass a law that would open up the sector. This would make it possible for other pension fund managers to compete in the collection of the mandatory pension funds, but trade unions and members of the general public want more protection for the NSSF. Mr Lwanga said the committee has already decided to allow NSSF to keep the Ush5.6 trillion ($1.7 billion) it already holds, or whatever amount the fund will have collected before the law is passed, by locking in savers. The law tabled in April 2011 would have allowed for portability, so that any employee unhappy with NSSF’s services could move all their savings to another pension fund. The government also wanted to allow pension funds to compete for the 15 per cent mandatory savings, but this was rejected by trade unions.
Jul 19th 2015
Aug 2nd 2015