Freight forwarders push for self-regulatory mechanism

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Customs agents and stakeholders pose for a group photo after the workshop. Eddie Nsabimana

A new legal framework on self-regulation and management of customs agents and freight forwarders in Rwanda is being developed as a tool to bring about sanity and professionalism in the freight logistics.

The draft bill, which was initiated by Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association (RWAFFA), is expected to be presented to Parliament next year.

It is hoped to shape tools, behaviours and values that every professional customs agent should possess to promote professionalism in tax compliance and freight forwarding business.

Speaking at a workshop convened to discuss the progress on the draft bill on Wednesday, Theogene Rukundo, RWAFFA secretary-general, said the new bill will help the association members do their work with professionalism, and boost efficiency in service delivery.

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Some of the customs agents who attended the workshop. / Eddie Nsabimana

The workshop brought together a wide-range of stakeholders, including customs agents and freight forwarders, transporters, shippers and government officials working closely with the customs service.

Rukundo said, “there are many problems in this sector that will be addressed as long as the bill is approved. We already drafted it and need our stakeholders’ input before it can be submitted to other organs. We want it to be enacted so we can have a self-regulatory body like other sectors, to improve the way we are doing things.”

There is hope that, once the bill is approved, the cost of doing business will reduce at 14.3 per cent through reducing clearing time, according to clearing agents.

Raphael Tugirumuremyi, the Commissioner for Customs Services at Rwanda Revenue Authority, backed the proposed self-regulatory mechanism and said it would help address challenges faced by clearing agents and freight forwarders without requiring government intervention.

“When clearing agents encounter issues beyond their control, it normally requires government intervention. But as long as the draft is approved, I believe the association will have capacity to address the challenges. It is surely going to be an advantage for both business people and the government,” said Tugirumuremyi.

“We don’t need to import hazardous and harmful products, we don’ t need to share the risks rather than profits as we are in good shape of improving our activities for the sake of our business survival and the country’s development,” he said.

Clearing agents and freight forwarders reckon that the proposed mechanism will end the disorders caused by non-professional clearing agents who deceive their clients during clearing process.

Tugirumuremyi sees it as a reliable tool with potential to build trust with their clients.

Marie-Claire Benihirwe, a customs agent, admitted that they have been working in disorder where one would help business people clear their goods at a modest price just for the sake of gaining a client.

Rwanda Revenue Authority’s Customs Department will continue to regulate clearing agents and freight forwarders until the proposed framework is approved.

The draft is expected to complement the regional legislation developed by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA).

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