Regional clearing and freight forwarding firms are seeking to improve the professionalism of their operations through a model bill on clearing and freight forwarders industry in the East African Community region.
This comes at a time, when there is need to promote economic diversification and industrialisation by linking economies and a need for a strong and organised customs clearing and freight forwarding community in the region.
The bill was developed through an initiative by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), in partnership with the revenue authorities and Japan International Co-operation Agency. (JICA).
Under the lead of the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Association (FEAFA), a model bill on self-regulation was initiated and developed in collaboration with various stakeholders to overcome challenges that are hindering the industry.
According to Fred Seka, president of FEAFFA, even though the industry has been championing professionalism through a number of activities such as training, code of conduct, regional accreditation framework, among others, there is need to self-regulate the industry.
“Self-regulation is all about regulation of the professionals involved in customs agents and freight forwarders. As we all know, some challenges can’t be solved without having a specific legal framework put in place.”
Clement Bukulu, the chairman, Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association also added that, the draft law (self-regulation) is an important mechanism for governing industry practises with multiple benefits all stakeholders and shareholders.
“Establishment of mutual recognition arrangements in the East African Community region, enhancing professionalism, quick support and advocacy, enhancing trust among industry players.” Among other benefits he reiterated.
The Government has already drafted the national bill and it is ready to be submitted to the concerned authorities, and more than 7000 thousand operators have benefited from the capacity development for international trade facilitation in the region.
Why self-regulation is important.
“Today, all of us know that the role played by both customs and also the clearing and forwarding agents in ensuring fast and reliable logistics and supply chain is critical in the current globalised business environment, especially now that AFCFTA has been ratified” Yoko Konishi, JICA expert said.
She also pointed out that, the professional service delivery by the agents will ensure quality services to the customers and subsequently facilitate improved trade environment and revenue collection for the country.
Rosine Uwamariya, the Customs Operations Manager at Rwanda Revenue Authority, challenged the sector’s performance.
For instance, she said, in 2018, Rwanda was ranked the 57th out of 163 countries, and in particular the freight forwarders had 2.9 out of 5 according to the World Bank Index.
“With your self-regulation initiative, we expect that the established mechanism will ensure uniformity in standards, professionalism, quality of service and work ethics among the agents which will give more efficiency in the trade logistics and also facilitate trade and investment in East Africa.” She said noting that there is need to move the national process faster, rallying the entire industry to support the sector.
However, she also commended JICA’s partnership in the sector for being supportive and ensuring that the sector keeps its momentum.
John Mathenge, technical advisor at FEAFFA, said, a self-regulatory body will not only enhance professionalism in delivery of freight forwarding services, but also enhance compliance to rules and regulations, protect consumers of our services, become accountable as a sector, become more competitive, promote growth and development of the sector.