* New system to speed up cargo movement, cut tax leakage
* Uganda, Rwanda to deploy own agents at Mombasa port
* Kenyan clearing companies fear thousands of job losses
By Joseph Akwiri
NAIROBI, July 24 Kenya said it would cut red
tape holding up millions of dollars of imports into its
landlocked neighbours Rwanda and Uganda, by letting the
countries collect customs on goods as they arrive in its port at
Goods can currently face long delays as agents process the
paperwork to release cargoes from warehouses at east Africa's
biggest port, and later make separate arrangements to pay import
duties at Kenya's borders with Uganda and Rwanda.
Tax officials said the new system, due to be introduced in
August, would clear inefficiencies and blockages seen as a major
barrier to trade in the region.
But clearing agents in Kenya said it could also cost
thousands of jobs in warehouses, freight firms and almost 700
clearing and forwarding companies operating in the country.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, together with Burundi and
Tanzania, are members of the regional East African Community
trade bloc, with a joint gross domestic product of $85 billion.
Kenyan tax officials said the new system would allow a
"seamless flow of goods" and make it easier to stop goods
getting through the system without customs payments.
"Once cleared at the port, there will be no stoppages at
borders and checkpoints along the corridor," the Kenya Revenue
Authority's commissioner of customs, Beatrice Memo, told a news
Under the system, Rwandan and Ugandan clearing agents and
customs officials would be able to set up their own offices to
clear cargo and collect taxes directly at the port.
The Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association
said that meant up to half a million jobs could be lost to
Uganda and Rwanda.
"The Government has not consulted us ... and we totally
reject it," Association chairman Boaz Makomere told Reuters.
(Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Heavens)