A group of 320 graduates received the prestigious East African Customs and Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate (EACFFPC) during a ceremony held in Kigali on Friday, June 23. Among them were 284 graduates hailing from the 18th Kigali Intake, while 36 graduates represented the inaugural Rubavu Class Intake. The East African Customs and Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate program, developed through a joint partnership between East Africa Revenue Authorities and National Freight Forwarding Associations, is a testament to the commitment to capacity building. ALSO READ: Rwanda issues special freight tariff for AfCFTA traders The collaboration facilitated by the Federation of East Africa Freight Forwarders Association (FEAFFA) aims to enhance efficiency in cargo processing, reduce documentation errors, and contribute to the overall decrease in the time and cost of moving cargo in the East African Community (EAC). One of the highlights of the ceremony was the official launch of the FEAFFA Online Learning Portal. The platform provides Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders in East Africa with flexible, accessible, and affordable training opportunities, further empowering professionals in the field. Sam Kabera, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Customs Operations at the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), emphasized the regulatory role of RRA in enhancing the professional standards of customs agents. He highlighted the provision of recognized professional courses and refresher training to more than 100,000 clearing agents, covering topics such as tariff valuation, rules of origin, and trade facilitation. ALSO READ: Exporters hope for lower rates as air cargo operations surge This comprehensive approach ensures that customs agents' knowledge and skills remain up-to-date, aligning with the ongoing RRA reform agenda aimed at improving performance standards. Kabera expressed optimism, stating: We expect to see common goals being achieved, professionalism and compliance elevated, and the industry growing sustainably. David Rwigema, the Chairman of the Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association, emphasized the availability of job opportunities for the graduates beyond clearing and forwarding. He highlighted the significance of their knowledge and expertise in advising export and import traders, assisting warehouse owners in storage and management, and supporting procurement specialists and accountants in interpreting trade terms and maintaining proper records. The comprehensive nature of the program equips graduates with cross-cutting skills that meet the diverse needs of the business community. ALSO READ: Customs officials seek to enhance performance measurement for strategic decisions Blenda Nakkazi Mwogeza, the Chairperson of the Curriculum Implementation Committee of the East Africa Customs and Freight Forwarding Practice Certificate and a staff member at the Uganda Revenue Authority, discussed the program's evolution since its inception in 2006. The curriculum has undergone regular reviews to align with industry trends and ensure graduates are competitive not only within East Africa but also globally, particularly with the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Nakkazi emphasized the importance of an employable workforce capable of competing continentally, highlighting the collective commitment of all East African Community partner states to the program's implementation. She expressed the need for solidarity, stating: We are all beneficiaries, so it's important for us to walk together. ALSO READ: High freight rates cast a shadow over horticulture export prospects The graduation ceremony provided an opportunity for graduates to reflect on their transformative journey. Patrick Dufitumukiza, one of the graduates, welcomed the lessons on integrity and ethics included in the program, emphasizing their potential to change prevailing stereotypes within the freight and forwarding industry. Brigitte Mutakwampuhwe, who was already engaged in the trade, expressed enthusiasm for delivering exceptional services to clients. She pointed to the previous variations in procedures between different border posts and noted how the acquired knowledge equipped graduates well to navigate these dynamics seamlessly.