NIMULE – South Sudan bound cargo trucks are bearing the effects COVID-19 has imposed on businesses coupling with unnecessary cost levied by rogue officials in the name of taxes when plying the roads in the new nation.
Globally, COVID-19 has slowed down businesses and increased costs in trade, including in the transport sector.
Truckers crossing into South Sudan from the region have to contend with increasing cost of COVID-19 tests, delays which are equally costly and an unending list of taxes.
“COVID-19 has paralyzed business, trade flow is even delayed,” a cargo truck driver who identified himself only as Atsa told Sudans Posts, in an interview in Nimule, while ruing the high infection rate of the virus at the border point.
Atsa said the delay is compounded by cost accrued at illegal checkpoints.
“The border point and other checkpoints along the road cost much in term of money paid at those points,” Atsa said.
“We have to pay some money to officials who place roadblocks in order for us to pass,” he said.
Drivers too have difficulties in accessing protective gears that could help mitigate infection, Atsa said.
“We do not get personal protective devices such as facemasks, gloves and other protective gears, we buy it ourselves and that is expensive,” he said.
For driver Hassan Ahmed, his work is cut out by a continuous quarantine along his route.
“Indeed, the supply or the flow of goods have been affected so much,” Ahmed told Sudans Post.
“At border crossings, from Kenya to Uganda or Tanzania, truck drivers are subjected to 14 days quarantine, and that has become a serious delay that disrupts the supply chain.”
The chairman of the Shippers Council, YowaSoso told Sudans Post that the delays have reduced the volume of incoming cargo, reduced jobs and imposed on drivers a very difficult work environment.
Clearing agents too have had a difficult time in handling cargo, and many are losing their jobs, and in effect, increasing clearing cost, Soso said.
“There is a procedure to reduce the number of employees in the company, the work of 5 people reduced to two, and is going to hinder the amount of work which is done,” Soso said.
“When there is delay in any logistics work, it means that cost of clearance is going to increase.”
Soso said drivers need to be assisted with protective gears to ensure their safety from COVID-19.
“Most drivers need to be assisted, they need to be given protection gears, and these protection gears sometimes are offered by our donors,” he said while haling TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) for leading in donating the protection gears.
“Sanitizers, face masks, gloves have been provided for us” by TradeMarkEA, he said.
Between March 16th and 17th, truckers, border agencies and clearing agents were sensitized in a workshop organized by South Sudan Shippers Council with support from TradeMark EA.
The sensitization held at the Nimule One Stop Border Post sought to equip them with adequate knowledge about the pandemic so as to contribute and support national and regional response towards its management.
Additionally, it sought to guide industry players as they continue providing the essential freight logistics services and to support and encourage the implementation of a harmonized regional approach to ease movement of cargo and people.
The delays on the road have made truck drivers like Joshua Maina making less money while trying to deal with an increased cost of living.
A trip from Mombasa to Juba takes a month, twice an average two weeks before the pandemic hit, Maina told Sudans Post.
“The checkpoints and roadblocks along the roads have become increasingly expensive. Youmove a short distance just to find another road barrier and a lot of money is paid at those points,” he said.
“You cannot be allowed to pass those roadblocks without paying little money.”