Accelerating Regional Integration, Trade and Social Cohesion in the East African Community through the One-Stop Border Post Harmonized Capacity Building Program

Cross-border traders returning to Rwanda after spending the day in Bukavu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.©IOM 2023/Robert Kovacs


In a global context where the rising cost of living and burgeoning debt burdens are straining African economies, ensuring that the continent can fully capitalize on the benefits of local resources and goods is essential. This is at the heart of the African Free Continental Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which estimates that if Africa created a single common market of goods, it could generate an additional $450 billion within the region by 2035. In parallel, the African Union has also encouraged its Member States to ratify the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, which aims to facilitate and increase the movement of Africans within Africa. These continental frameworks acknowledge that there is a mutually complementary relationship between migration, trade and sustainable development.

However, all too often, narratives that focus on trade overlook the people who physically move and carry goods– as if goods traverse borders by themselves. This is evident by the fact that while 44 African countries have ratified the AfCFTA, only four have done the same for the AU Free Movement Protocol, these are: Mali, Niger, Rwanda and São Tomé and Príncipe. Capitalizing on the full potential of the trade and human mobility nexus is a necessity in Africa, particularly for landlocked countries, where border delays and transportation costs are among the highest in the world.

This is where the concept of the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) comes in. In practice, the integration aim of an OSBP is achieved by joining the administrative, operational systems of two adjoining countries placing the border officials of each state in one border post, so that border management and controls can be jointly conducted when travelers enter a country. Once this check has taken place, no other checks are required, essentially cutting the border clearance process in half. The reduction in crossing time is critically important for cross-border traders, who sometimes cross the border several times a day, and has a defined financial impact on both small and larger traders.

The development of an OSBP also involves the construction of adequate infrastructure, the establishment of specific procedures that focus on facilitating trade, the movement of persons, and harmonized capacity-building programs that focus on enhancing coordination, collaboration, and a common understanding for border officers.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in partnership with Trademark Africa, through the support of the European Union, is currently building and operationalizing an OSBP at the Rusizi II/Bukavu Point of Entry (PoE) between Rwanda and the DRC. Its completion is expected to take place in late 2024.

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Senior Project Assistant, Claude Shusumbo, monitors the construction of new One Stop Border Post being constructed at Rusizi II/Bukavu Port of Entry. ©IOM 2023/Robert Kovacs

In order to ensure sustainability of the program while contributing to regional integration, IOM supported EAC partner states to revise and develop a harmonized training program on managing migration that builds on lessons learned from the EAC OSBP Training Curriculum developed in 2016 which mainly focused on trade facilitation. In January 2023, the EAC Secretariat, in collaboration with its Partner States, embarked on a year-long process to develop a comprehensive training module on migration management within OSBP settings. Bringing together regional experts from immigration and customs sectors, the initiative succeeded in merging OSBP knowledge and articulating key lessons learned and best practices in migration management.

“The training was a useful capacity-building engagement for immigration officials to be conscious of emerging global trends for better migration management through One-Stop Border Posts,” said David Nyariki, Senior Immigration Officer, Training and Research Directorate of Immigration services, Kenya.

The series of workshops and training sessions took place across five EAC member states, starting in Nairobi, Kenya, to outline the framework for the new curriculum. Experts then joined for a detailed content elaboration in Bujumbura, Burundi. Subsequently, a training of trainers was conducted in Entebbe, Uganda, to equip personnel with the necessary skills to implement the curriculum effectively. To ensure widespread dissemination and application of the consolidated knowledge, training sessions were conducted in Bukavu, DRC, and Rusizi, Rwanda where the new OSBP is under construction.

Dr. Hussein Hamisi Namkambe, Head of Academic Research and Consultancy in the Tanzania Regional Immigration Academy (TRITA) enthusiastically affirmed the success of these trainings, saying “The training program is very useful to our immigration practitioners particularly in One Stop Border Post (OSBP) settings as it encourages cooperation, knowledge sharing and it strengthens migration control mechanism as well as harmonization of procedures to our officers and Immigration institution in the EAC.”

“The training is very important to our Immigration Officers and agencies located on our borders. This module is harmonized so that our EAC countries will speak the same language in training programs, and we wish that these training will continue and reach all EAC OSBP partners states” mentioned Mr. Diomede, Immigration officer from Burundi.

Mr. Kenneth Byaruhanga, Sr. Immigration Officer from Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control of Uganda introduces migration clearance procedures as well as travel documents and their categories at an OSBP Training of Trainers from 11 – 15 September, in Entebbe, Uganda. ©IOM 2023/Erika

The EAC Secretariat and IOM’s Africa Capacity Building Centre (ACBC) will collaborate with Partner States and IOM country missions to continue cascading this knowledge to all OSBP’s in the EAC region.

Supporting the effective and efficient operationalization of OSBPs in the EAC is a key component of IOM’s Regional Strategy for the East and Horn of Africa, and to harnessing the full potential of regional integration, trade, and social cohesion in the EAC.

In the East African Community (EAC), where over half of the Member States are landlocked, OSBPs play a fundamental role in boosting intra-regional trade and supporting inclusive economic growth. The recent additions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Somalia to the EAC add further impetus to the need to scale-up OSBPs in the region.


This story was written by Ana Rachel Powell, IOM Rwanda Reporting Officer and Erika De Bona, Senior Regional Programme Manager.



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