CoW pushes on with plans, Single Customs Territory rollout expected January 1

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 Trucks await Customs inspection at the Gatuna post on the Rwanda-Uganda border. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya

Trucks await Customs inspection at the Gatuna post on the Rwanda-Uganda border. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya 

By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI, Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, December 14   2013 at  17:14

In Summary

  • Systems to collect revenues and clear goods in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are to be interlinked and upgraded.

Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are moving ahead with the rollout of a Single Customs Territory (SCT) from January 1 as part of an accelerated programme for regional integration.

The three countries — which came in together in June under what is now officially known as the Tripartite Initiative for Fast Tracking the East African Integration, to the exclusion of fellow EAC partner states Tanzania and Burundi — have shown their commitment by putting in place the necessary systems and even deploying their Customs officers to the port of Mombasa to implement the Single Customs Authority.

Under the provisions of the SCT, tax on incoming goods is to be collected at a single point of entry, in this case the port of Mombasa. This is meant to ease trade within the three countries that are part of the controversial troika popularly known as the Coalition of the Willing (CoW).

According to sources, Customs commissioners from the three countries met a week ago to ensure that their systems are working following a directive by the EAC Heads of State Summit in Kampala last month that the process commence next year.

Although the three countries use different automated systems to collect revenues and clear goods, efforts are underway to interlink the systems in the next six months. This will ensure that revenues are collected effectively and will allow faster clearance of goods for traders from the two countries.

Kenya uses the Simba Customs software, while Uganda and Rwanda are on a different platform called ASYCUDA.

“The two systems will be used in the initial stages but will be upgraded and interlinked in the next few months,” said a KRA official.

Also the Single Electronic Window System, whose first phase was rolled out in October by Kenya, will be recast to ensure that regional revenue authority systems are integrated to allow for information sharing and to facilitate the release of cargo at the first point of entry.

“As of now, a number of modules dealing with the lodgement of pre-clearance documents such as licences, permits, import declaration forms, sea and air manifests, integration with the KRA and the national payment gateway, have been successfully rolled out,” said Alex Kabuga, chief executive officer of the Kenya Trade Network Agency (Kentrade), which is charged with implementing the electronic single window system (ESWS).

Mr Kabuga said that the remaining modules are scheduled to be rolled out by May 2014.

“Efforts are underway, spearheaded by the EAC Secretariat, to have a regional ESWS. A technical working group has been formed to make the concept operational,” he said.

Under the SCT, assessment of goods imported by traders from the three countries will only be conducted at the first point of entry and trucks weighed only on crossing the border.

Revenue collection will also take place at the first point of entry and revenues will remitted to the destination partner states, subject to the fulfilment of some preconditions.

All the roadblocks between Mombasa and Kigali will, therefore, be eliminated and the weighbridges reduced from nine to three at most.

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