Unqualified clearing and forwarding agents have reason to worry as the deadline for each firm to have at least two qualified workers draws near.
According to Federation of Freight Forwarding Associations in East Africa and Revenue authorities in the region, clearing and forwarding firms without this minimum requirement will not be licensed next year.
Anita Bitega, the executive secretary of the Association of Freight Forwarders of Rwanda (AFR), said the requirement was adopted in 2009 to promote professionalism in a sector that was largely started by unqualified people.
An agent, therefore, must have at least two employees qualified in customs clearing, international trade, commodity processing and valuations, among others.
“The move is aimed at streamlining the sector by promoting professional skills among the agents so as to improve on service delivery.
“Today, some agents do not know customs procedures and think it’s a matter of moving around with papers. This is why some clients are complaining of forgeries, inflated tax invoices and delays in clearing of goods at custom points. Therefore, we believe that like any other professions, there is need to ensure standards and professional conduct,” Bitega said.
Presently, there are 115 qualified clearing agents and 120 companies. About 110 others are undergoing training at the customs training college.
Bitega said they want the revenue body to fully implement sections of the the customs Act relating clearing agents.
Last week the president of the Federation of the East African Freight Forwarders Association, Mathieu Bizimana, during a graduation ceremony for clearing and freight forwarders in Kampala told agents that the EACFFPC certificate would be mandatory for licensing customs agents by the revenue authorities in the East African Community (EAC).
Meanwhile, Bitega has said that clearing agents still face many other challenges, such as trade and non-trade barriers, including poor roads and bureaucracy. Stiff competition that results from a small economy is also giving sector players sleepless nights.
Bitega, however, advised clearing firms to unite and work together if they are to overcome these challenges.