A total of 22 companies have been certified with a special customs status, Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs), to facilitate faster audits on port or customs house as well as reduce clearance time during cross-border customs clearance.
The certified businesses include importers, exporters, transporters, freight forwarders, customs agents, bonded warehouse owners, manufacturers and terminal operators.
The certification is in recognition for having consistently demonstrated high commitment to comply with customs regulations and security procedures.
During the certification ceremony, Vincent Munyeshyaka, the minister for trade and industry, said the move will help boost trade for easy circulation of products in which the certified firms deal.
“The more trade operators are facilitated, the faster the economy grows as imports help local industries to increase manufacturing. This will boost their trade growth as time taken on customs audits will be reduced,” he said, adding that the businesses should exploit the opportunity.
The AEOs will benefit from eased procedures or facilitation at customs controls related to security and safety throughout the East African Community.
William Musoni, the deputy commissioner for customs at Rwanda Revenue Authority, said the customs audit services will no longer be processed at the borders for the AEOs and will be prioritised to expedite clearance.
“We have faith in them having evaluated their tax compliance processes over a long time. So this opportunity is due to their honesty and trust they have long built in our customs regulation body, both at the national and regional levels,” he said.
Some of the criteria required to be an accredited AEO include a volume of imports or exports of at least Rwf200 million turnover to ensure efficient risk management in business as well as good business background, honesty and trust in tax compliance records at the customs regulating body.
Fred Seka, the chairperson of Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association, one of the certified firms, said it is a motivation on their part as they will be allowed to proceed with their imports or exports, as well as transportation.
Since its inception in 2008, the AEO programme has been implemented at regional level to enhance trade facilitation, promote customs to business partnership, ensure security for the international trade supply chain and encourage voluntary compliance to customs laws.
An AEO in Rwanda is not subject to physical inspections, queuing or immediate audits at the customs point.
So far 46 AEOs have been certified for special customs status.