Claude Niyomugabo, a produce dealer in Kigali, last month failed to close a huge deal after failing to obtain the necessary import documentation in time.
Niyomugabo is not alone as many other agro-dealers, importers and exporters had fallen victim to the previously bureaucratic and tedious process of acquiring import or export certification.
The bureaucratic procedures had often resulted into delays in terms of delivering farm inputs to farmers affecting sales and crop productivity. However, this could soon become history, thanks to a new online portal unveiled last week, which will ease the process and make it more efficient.
The facility has automated the systems and processes used by Rwanda Agricultural Livestock Inspection and Certification Services (RALIS) to regulate and facilitate businesses involved in international trade in the agricultural sector in Rwanda.
The portal, launched on Friday, was developed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources with $150,000 funding from TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), a trade facilitation non-profit organisation.
The new online portal will reduce time and cost to issue import and export certificates, as well as permits of plants, animal materials and agrichemicals by 45 per cent, according to Tonny Nsanganira, the State Minister of Agriculture.
According to Beatrice Uwumukiza, the RALIS director general, the portal will enhance enforcement, as well as ensure transparency and accountability among stakeholders, including traders, transporters and government agencies.
Uwumukiza said the facility that uses the Electronic Single Window system will ease clearance activities and exchange of information among government agencies. The system will help eliminate the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) non-tariff barriers (NTBs), and this has been a priority area under the market integration pillar of the newly launched Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).
Denise Uwase from Kayonza District is optimistic the initiative is a double win, not only for importers and exporters, but also farmers as it will improve access to inputs like fertilisers and improved seeds, as well as boost produce export.
“This means that those trading in plant and plant materials, animal and animal products and agrichemicals will spend less time and money when acquiring import and export permits,” Uwase said.
The portal targets importers and exporters of plant and plant materials, animal and animal products, and agrichemicals into and out of Rwanda. It will enable traders to make applications and receive import and export permits from the comfort of their offices, without making physical trips to the ministry. This is aligned to government’s vision of making Rwanda a paperless economy through automating all government services to the public and the private sector.
About the portal
The trade portal comprises of two interlinked platforms - a front-end login portal, where RALIS stakeholders will access services ranging from information on Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements, international and Rwanda trade regulations and features to request for services.
The second platform is a management information system to be used by RALIS to process requests for services. The management information system has been integrated with the Rwanda Electronic Single Window, enabling information sharing between Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
It will also be integrated with financial systems, such as the national payment gateway and banking systems, further reducing transaction and administrative costs. The linkages within the system will enhance inter-government agency coordination with the aim of improving service delivery and good governance in Rwanda, said Dr Savio Hakirumurame, the brain behind the portal.
Hakirumurame said that the portal targets importers and exporters of plant, plant materials, animal and animal products, and agrichemicals into and out of Rwanda. Traders will be able to make applications as well as receive import and export permits from the comfort of their offices, without making physical trips to the ministry.
This is aligned to the government’s vision of making Rwanda a paperless economy through automating all government services to the public and the private sector. The new online portal will reduce the transaction and administrative time and costs associated with issuance of permits and certificates by up to 45 per cent; the current direct transaction costs to apply for a permit or certificate is $5.67, this is expected to drop to less than $3 per transaction.
Already, 150 companies and 50 individuals registered with the system following during its three-month piloting. During this period, a total number of 120 import permits and 207 phytosanitary certificates were issued.
Other key benefits of the portal will include improved service delivery and better governance around the management of certificates and permits for the sector. The portal will ease the process of getting prerequisite documents by exporters dealing in time sensitive sectors such as horticulture, according to Lillian Uwintwali, the managing director of M-AHWII, an agri-tech ICT firm, said.
In a world where document forgery has become common, the portal will enable secured and transparent management of documents making it possible for destination market authorities to trust trade documents from Rwanda – and this will enable Rwandan exports to undergo less document scrutiny in the export markets.