Traders laud Kenya’s move to automate cargo clearing at borders

Traders have welcomed Kenya’s move to automate its customs entry points. According to a new policy, all border points will switch to automated electronic systems effective October 31 to eliminate bureaucracy in cargo clearing. The move has been hailed by local traders, who say it will boost regional business by reducing the cost of doing import and export trade.
 Cargo trucks wait to be cleared at Malaba border. With automation at all Kenya border posts, transporters will spend less time on the road. The New Times / File
Cargo trucks wait to be cleared at Malaba border. With automation at all Kenya border posts, transporters will spend less time on the road. The New Times / File

Traders have welcomed Kenya’s move to automate its customs entry points. According to a new policy, all border points will switch to automated electronic systems effective October 31 to eliminate bureaucracy in cargo clearing. The move has been hailed by local traders, who say it will boost regional business by reducing the cost of doing import and export trade.

According to Fred Seka, the president of the Association of Freight Forwards and Clearing Agents Rwanda, Kenya’s trade policies directly impact on local business because Rwanda’s major imports go through Mombasa port.

“We are excited that Kenya is taking these initiatives which will boost regional trade. The single  window system though championed by the Kenya Trade Network Agency will not only help Kenyans, but also Rwandan traders,” Seka said.

“Everyone wants their cargo to be cleared without delays at points of entry, especially for business people from land locked countries like Rwanda.

Joseph Kibwana, the KenTrade chairman, recently told reporters in Nairobi that the single window system would create a platform for submission of trade-related cargo clearance documents at a single entry point unlike today, where businesses have to move back and forth to have their papers cleared by several departments.

“The present global trends in trade facilitation show that countries that have embraced the single window system, such as Singapore, have made great economic strides and are very competitive,” Kibwana said

Jackie Rurangwa, the managing director of Multiline International Rwanda, noted that customs efficiency creates trust, confidentiality between clearing agents and traders and reduces the cost of doing trade.

“The whole world is using automated systems; this should have been done much earlier. Delaying cargo clearance has been putting us at loggerheads with our clients, but with the automated system, we expect relationships between forwarders and clients to improve,” she said.

Robert Bapfakulera, the managing director of Roba General Merchants, hailed the development, noting that efficiency and accuracy were the key ingredients of doing business successfully.

“As a trader, who wants to make profits and also deliver on time, this is great news.  We urge other (East African Community) member states to follow the suit.”

According to Mark Priestley, the TradeMark East Africa country director, the main objective of integration is to promote regional trade. “Eliminating non-trade barriers and implementing the single widow system will make trade faster and cost effective,” he noted.

Currently, it takes between eight and 10 days to clear cargo at the Port of Mombasa, while clearance at border points takes a minimum of two days. Freight handling at airports takes three days. But automation could drastically reduce these periods by up to 70 per cent, according to experts.

In June, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda recognised the need to re-locate top customs officials at the port of Mombasa from where they will be assessing and collecting revenue.

“Clearance at the Mombasa port will come down to three days; at airports it shall be 24 hours,” Kibwana said.

According to KenTrade, there are over 10 institutions involved with the cargo clearing process, but the key agencies that issue clearances are the Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Police and the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

Others are the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, the Kenya Revenue Authority, as well as the Kenya Ports Health Authority.

Kibwana also noted that an improved business environment would most likely lead to increased foreign direct investments, hence creation of more jobs across the region.

Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chairman Boaz Makomere said the introduction of the system will help address existing inefficiencies in trade logistics.

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