Rwanda Revenue Authority is primed to adopt a multi-lateral transit framework that allows goods in transit to be cleared by customs, with the payment of duties and taxes suspended until they are cleared at final destination.
The Transport Internationaux Routiers (TIR) system, officials at RRA said, will greatly boost the drive toward regional integration
According to Raphael Ugirumuremyi, the commissioner for customs services at RRA, Rwanda has since realised commendable progress in trade facilitation since the removal of non-tariff barriers by the East African region—but “some challenges” still exist, hence the need to further look into “possible solution”.
Ugirumuremyi said TIR could make transportation of goods more seamless.
“Business people still face numerous challenges in transportation of goods to and from the country to the port of Mombasa or Dar-es-Salaam, issues relating to non-tariff barriers still exist,” he said.
“With the availability of more advanced ways of transportation, such as TIR, we could possibly reduce on such challenges and significantly on the cost of doing business for our people. If we can solve at least half of the challenges we have had in transportation of goods, then we will consider it.”
TIR was introduced by the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the world’s road transport organisation that offers solutions and trade facilitation in more than 100 countries.
The core constituents of the organisation are national transport associations and transport operators but it also works closely with businesses, governments, the United Nations (UN) and international organisations.
IRU was founded in 1948 in Geneva to help the then war-torn Europe rebuild trade and commercial links.
Ugirumuremyi hopes that the new system would also reduce the existing challenges paused by the current insurance guidelines provided for under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a process that is rather “long and bureaucratic at times.”
Guided by the United Nations TIR Convention – of which Rwanda is not yet a signatory to – the globally applicable multi-lateral transit framework allows operators in any TIR contracting party to move goods in transit across the territory of any other TIR contracting party, with a single document, a single guarantee, and using globally available Customs-2-Customs and Business-2-Customs data exchange systems.
And since Rwanda is far from sea, Ugirumuremyi said the country would be attracted to such a tool that creates a seamless flow of cargo and facilitates business growth.
“We are sure that once businesses grow, once the cost of doing business has reduced, then more revenues would come. Our priority is to facilitate business,” he added.
Habib Turki, the IRU project coordinator for Africa and Middle East, told Saturday Times that implementing the tool with other harmonised procedures will create a better business environment and make goods more competitive.
“If you have one document that covers the whole journey on the Northern Corridor or the Central Corridor, and if you can remove further the number of inspections (along the way), you will have more competitive goods being traded on the market,” Turki said.
He said they are ready to start “as soon as possible” with capacity building training and roll out the tool once RRA agrees to it.
“Each country has its own realities when it comes to challenges we have faced while implementing this project. But for Rwanda, I don’t foresee any challenges; Rwandan Revenue Authority has a modern and professional administration—they have implemented the single window and regional initiatives targeting further regional integration, I don’t see any challenges in implementing this system,” he added.
Fred Seka, the chairperson of the Association of Clearing and Forwarding Agents, said the Northern Corridor, which links Rwanda to Mombasa Port, is still inhibited with unnecessary non-tariff barriers.
He said transporters are looking forward to a possible mechanism that would allow goods to be transported from Kenya, through Uganda to Rwanda with just a single clearance.
“Transporters definitely want such a system that could significantly reduce the cost of doing their business in the region. If we can reduce the days from the coast of Mombasa to Kigali to exactly three day then the better,” Seka said.