Burundi’s Kobero border, which is shared with the Republic of Tanzania, is located in a zone called Butarugero, Butihinda commune, situated approximately 20 kilometres from the city centre of Muyinga province. The road that once served as a separation is now open, giving Burundians direct access to the East African Community (EAC).
Trade and movement flow freely between the two countries and Burundians are able to collaborate with the other member states and adopt common standards, like tax collection, for example, adopted by all EAC member states.
But the most tangible advantage for everyday Burundians is the common market where trading among merchants and sellers is visibly present.
The Niles went to see the trading atmosphere for ourselves and spoke to various people whose lives have been affected by the new connection at the Kobero border:
Ange Dany Gakunzi, OBR spokesperson (Office Burundais des Recettes, Burundi Revenue Authority) says: “There are times when we go to Tanzania, whenever we want, to purchase some goods such as these soft drinks and sell them afterwards. Nowadays, there is no difficulty in crossing into Tanzania to simply do our business ventures.
In my point of view, the importance of this border is that nowadays the merchants and sellers passing through this border, purchase and sell goods at equal costs and prices because the Kobero border agents have taken measures to actively fight against illegal transborder trading. That is why the border is well secured.”
Aline Kabagabire, a local seller says: “We sell rice and furniture equipment. If I tell the customs agents that I just want to cross the border to go and purchase products, they simply give me a small pass paper. And that is it.
Nowadays, there is no difficulty in crossing into Tanzania to simply do our business ventures.”
What we see is that they simply ask you where you are coming from and where you are headed. If you want to go further in the neighbouring country, you basically consult the immigration office and then get a stamp for your travel documents such as a passport or a Laissez-passé and then you are set to go.
So, yes the easy workflow and accessibility are really advantageous for us, otherwise, I would have stopped doing business here if it were difficult to pass through the border. And we truly see that people working at the border really help us in order to do our business ventures in an easy and conducive business environment.”
Epipode Minani, a police officer in charge of border activities at Kobero border control, says: “Here the flow of people and activities is going well. You have seen that we are constantly receiving and welcoming people such as travellers coming from our neighbour countries, notably Tanzania, Uganda, or Kenya. They all pass through this border.
Before, travellers had to check in twice, first at the Tanzanian office and then at the Burundian office but now since we are jointly collaborating in one place, it is easier for the travellers to check in automatically in one place and then let them continue their journeys.
The only challenge that we are currently tackling is that when we detect someone who does not possess all the official papers for his goods, we might delay him for a day or two until he clears with all the necessary documentation. Otherwise, we try our best to offer the best services to the EAC travellers so that they can travel in a free and relaxed manner because we are in a regional community.”
Governor of Muyinga Province Aline Manirabarusa says: “First of all, I would like to start on the security sector, Tanzania and Burundi are countries living together peacefully because our mutuality is clearly positive and strong because Burundians travel freely to Tanzania and vice versa. Moreover, there are more goods from other countries, which come to Burundi by passing through Tanzania. You see that there is also a large number of trucks at the border.
Tanzania welcomes most imported products in Burundi. That’s also a point which shows that there are peaceful relations between Burundi and Tanzania.”
“We also see that the residents of Muyinga have become open-minded and are now well aware of the value and importance of paying taxes. And as a result, those who used to smuggle goods in the country illegally have been largely and effectively stopped. That’s why it is visible that we are receiving abundant revenues in terms of customs taxes.”
“In the time that the travellers spend here, they use our hotels, they eat and sleep here. And that is how the revenues are coming in. Moreover, those who sell beverages and food specialities are also benefiting from the travellers. We can generally acknowledge that the flow of activities here at the border is very beneficial to our country and citizens.”