Elsewhere in East Africa, when you pull Uganda Shillings out of your wallet, the money changers give you a mocking look. In fact, some laugh. I have heard economists say the Ugandan currency is not exactly in a bad position, but recently I felt the effects of carrying East Africa’s weakest currency in my pocket.
In Burundi, the only place you can comfortably change Ugandan money seems to be at Kanyaru, at the border with Rwanda. In the Forex Bureau at the Bus Park in Bujumbura, the attendant told me it is difficult to sell Uganda shillings, and he therefore buys it at the lowest rate.
My Kenyan friend found every opportunity to rub it in my face, since her country’s money was accepted wherever we went. Even at the hotel where we stayed, one could pay in Kenya Shillings if they didn’t have dollars, or Burundi Francs.
So I started wondering when the East African Community movement will ever reach its peak, and the possibility of a common currency. Some will say that has its disadvantages, but perhaps we need to put it to test.
According to some reports, there was a possibility of reaching an agreement for a common currency by close of 2012. Well, I guess that didn’t happen.
The discussions for a Monetary Union don’t seem to have closed, so maybe there is still hope.
You get out of the bus at Katuna on the Ugandan side, and walk about quarter of a kilometer to get to Gatuna on the Rwanda side, to have your passport stamped. When the East African Common Market was launched in July 2010, we thought that would become a thing of the past. So I am also looking forward to the day when the one stop border post, so my passport is stamped in one place.
Campaigners for the union need to think a bit more about the harmonization of immigration procedures, provided for in the Common Market Protocol.
The One Stop Border Post Bill was okayed in October 2012,but in the meantime lugging some of your luggage across the border posts continues. Someone seems to have promised traders at Rusumo, along the Rwanda-Tanzanian border that they will soon clear their goods faster.
Meanwhile, I continue to dream of an East Africa Community where the immigration clearance forms won’t have to interrogate my purpose for crossing the border and who I will be staying with. I wonder whether the Free Movement of Persons provision covers that?