Digitalising the customs operations has potential to boost intra-Africa trade and ensure effective revenue collection, tax authorities have observed. At a high level customs digitalisation forum taking place in Kigali, delegates said that for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to succeed, countries need to integrate ICT in their customs administration. The forum, being held from Thursday, November 3-4 under the theme “Leveraging on ICT to Boost Intra-African Trade,” has been attended by customs and excise officials from 30 countries from Eastern and Southern Africa and across the world. Though all countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa region have digitalised their customs services, according to the World Customs Organisation (WCO), only a few of them have advanced systems. These are South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya and Rwanda. However, there remain challenges that hamper digitalisation of customs operations in Africa. “The main challenges have been low trade volumes as a result of different non-tariff barriers and the low level of technology in eastern and southern Africa caused by low budget funding,” said Larry Liza, the director of WCO Eastern and Southern Africa. Liza added that digitalisation of customs had a number of benefits, including effective revenue collection and smooth flow of goods and services without hampering security. He commended Rwanda’s advancement in terms of customs digitalisation in Africa. “If countries digitised customs, they would improve the efficiency of their operations and tax payers' and importers' compliance,” said Jean-Louis Kaliningondo, the Deputy Commissioner General of the Rwanda Revenue Authority. Rwanda customs administration has two digital systems. The single window system, a harmonised information-sharing platform, reduces the time goods spend in the customs as well as ensure transparency and traceability. Kaliningondo said the other system, the electronic cargo tracking system, allows Rwandan and regional customs authorities to get real-time information on when a certain cargo has reached the point of entry, who its transporter is and be able track its movement. “The electronic single window and the electronic cargo tracking system have really helped Rwanda to have a better monitoring system on all importations that are coming into the country,” he said. For Batsirai Chadzingwa, the commissioner for customs and excise in the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and vice chair of WCO ESA, Africa has to move with the evolution of technology. “If African countries digitalise their customs, the continent becomes a global village. It means easier data exchange. If I need anything from Rwanda customs, it’s just a click on the button and they respond. But if they are not digitalised, then I have to write a letter and wait for two or three weeks to get the response,” Chadzingwa said. Besides single window systems, other measures to facilitate intra-Africa trade include coordinated border management, one-stop border posts and the authorised economic operator programme.