Uganda, South Sudan Move to Combat Smuggling, Enhance Trade Relations

by Christopher Kiiza
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Trade between Uganda and South Sudan is set to improve following the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the National Revenue Authority of South Sudan (NRA).

The agreement, which was signed a few weeks ago between URA’s Commissioner General, John Musinguzi Rujoki and a delegation from South Sudan, will facilitate cooperation and collaboration between the two entities in the discharge of their respective statutory obligations.

According to the MoU, URA and NRA will provide each other with assistance in digital transformation programs like RECTS, tax enforcement planning, information sharing, training, and benchmarks, among other things.

The signing of the agreement comes more than five months after South Sudan impounded dozens of Ugandan registered trucks that were transporting maize flour to South Sudan.

The South Sudan government alleged that the trucks had been impounded for carrying aflatoxin affected maize flour which is not fit for human consumption.

However, the Ambassador of South Sudan to Uganda, Simon Juach Deng said the MoU is formalizing the relationship that already exists between the two countries.

“Uganda is one of the neighbors that we are doing a lot of business with, and we have a lot to learn from them, more so from URA because they are ahead of us in revenue mobilization,” he said.

His remarks were reiterated by Rujoki, who highlighted the collaborations that have happened between the two countries, and applauded the NRA for the support accorded to the URA in cross-border trade.

“Thank you for supporting our joint efforts that have seen our countries create a conducive environment for fair and complaint business and as well fight vices like smuggling,” Rujoki said.

Smuggling of goods at the Uganda-South Sudan border crossings is a pervasive issue with far-reaching economic, social, and political consequences. This illicit trade is a consequence of various factors, including economic disparities between the two countries, porous borders, and regulatory challenges.

The Uganda-South Sudan border is long and porous, with numerous unofficial crossing points which makes it difficult for customs officials to control the movement of goods across the border.

Economically, smuggling deprives both countries of vital tax revenue. This revenue could be used for essential public services and infrastructure development. Smuggling also hampers the development of legitimate businesses, as it creates an uneven playing field and encourages unfair competition.

Smuggled goods are often sold at lower prices than goods that have been imported legally. This can put legitimate businesses out of business.

Athian Ding, the Commissioner General of the NRA, reassured the URA of their cooperation in the fight against the vice and said tighter border controls would be effected to mitigate it.

Early this year, URA and NRA signed a bilateral agreement where they resolved to implement joint border patrols and surveillance operations along the borderline with the aim of fighting smuggling.

While South Sudan is one of Uganda’s largest trading partners in the region, trade between the two countries is marred by challenges including insecurity, smuggling, and strikes by truck drivers, among others.

The smuggling of goods at the Uganda-South Sudan border has wide-ranging effects, from economic losses and security concerns to social and health consequences. Addressing this issue requires a concerted effort from both countries, regional organizations, and international partners to improve border security and promote legitimate trade.

Through such agreements, both countries are able to forge ways around the challenges to ensure seamless flow of goods, which will ultimately grow their revenues.

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