East African countries launch single customs territory
KIGALI, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda have launched a single customs territory to boost business among the partner states, agreeing to eliminate the remaining non-tariff barriers.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, Salva Kiir of South Sudan and their host Paul Kagame of Rwanda agreed the move at a summit on Monday, which also resolved to hasten transit cargo from Kenya's port of Mombasa.
Transit cargo would be weighed once at the point of entry into each member state territory, they said in a statement.
The time for cargo to reach Rwanda from the port of Mombasa would fall to eight days from 21 now, and shipments to Uganda from Mombasa would take five days from 15 days.
The summit was convened to review progress on the implementation of decisions reached during a previous meeting that focused on infrastructure in Mombasa on August 28, where Kenya commissioned a new berth expanding its main port.
At an initial summit on June 25, Uganda agreed to a plan to build a pipeline from its oilfields to a new port being developed on Kenya's northern coast, enabling crude exports and boosting its oil industry.
The pipeline to Kenya's Lamu port, where work on berths is starting, would also provide a route to export crude oil from South Sudan, which now relies on a pipeline through its northern neighbour Sudan. Rows between the two have disrupted flows.
The $25.5 billion Lamu project would link landlocked South Sudan and Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean port of Lamu by constructing a major highway, a railway and an oil pipeline.
On Monday, the countries called for consultations to be carried out between Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan on the joint development of the crude oil pipeline project.
Kenya also said it would share plans for a new railway at the next meeting in November. The railway would run from Mombasa through Uganda, Rwanda to South Sudan to ease trade. In August, Kenya said it had signed deals worth $5 billion with China, with part of the money meant for the railway line.
The leaders also agreed to the waiving of visa fees within the region, and sought ways to lower the cost of air travel.
(Writing by James Macharia)