Nigeria – Huawei, Smiths Detection, Bionica win concession for $3.1bn Customs modernisation project

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday ratified the $3.1 billion anticipatory approval by President Muhammadu Buhari to concession the modernisation project of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to a consortium named Messers E.Customs HC Project Limited. The concession is for 20 years.

The consortium is made up of Bionica Technologies W.A. Limited, Huawei, Smiths Detection, Nuctech of China, Larsen & Toubro Group, and Paramount Group.

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the virtual FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday, said the project will be at zero cost to the Federal Government since the $3.1 billion being proposed for the project will be sourced by the concessionaire.

She said, “The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning presented a memo, which is for the ratification of Mr. President’s anticipatory approval for the contract for the Customs modernisation.

“The purpose of the memo we presented to Council was for a project that will enable the complete automation of the Nigeria Custom Service processes and procedures using the application and information and technology in all aspects of Customs administration in favour of a firm known as E. Customs HC Projects Nigeria Limited For a concessionary period of 20 years.

“The main objective of this project is to completely automate every aspect of the Customs business and to institutionalise the use of smart and emerging technologies that will enhance the statutory function of the Nigeria Customs Service in the areas of revenue generation as well as trade facilitation and enhancement of security. The total cost of the project is in the sum of $3.1 billion. The consortium, the PPP group that has been approved are led by Messers Y Technologies with four other members.

“The committee that led this process also looked at the National Trade Impact process that has been going on for years and confirmed that the Nigerian e-customs project is a subset of the National Trade Impact and would prefer the Nigeria Customs to play its role in the national trading platform.

“The Bionica Technologies West Africa Limited, Bargain Securities and Supplies Nigeria Limited, these are lead sponsor and co-sponsor. We also have The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) as the lead financier and Huawei Technology as a technical service provider.

“So, the council today, ratified Mr. President’s approval for the PPP concession for a 20-year period to Messers E. Customs HC Project Limited as a concessionaire for the delivery of customs modernisation project. This is a project that will not have an immediate cost to the government, the investors are providing all of the financings and this revenue will be deployed in three phases in the concessionary period of 20 years.

“The Nigeria Customs currently has some level of automation services but it is not all of its serves that are automated. This is an end-to-end automation of all of Nigeria Customs Service processes and it’s going to bring huge value to the country. So this investment of $3.1 billion is broken down into capital investment of $1.2 billion which will be done in three phases over 36 months by these investors and $1.1 billion is our projection of the operational cost over the 20-year period of the implementation of the project.

“This project has the potential to yield up to $176 billion of revenue and the consortia that are providing this investment are going to be paid over time according to the schedule that is negotiated for their investments including their profits and cost.

“So this is the best possible way for Nigeria to roll out an important capital project using funds from the private sector and providing service for the use of Nigerian people and the government.”

Asked if with the project Customs would overtake petroleum as a source of revenue for the country, the Minister said it was part of the diversification plan of government.

According to her, “We hope that at some point those revenues from oil will begin to be insignificant compared to revenue from the non-oil sector in the Nigerian economy. That is our aspiration and that is the true meaning of diversification.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in his explanation said, “The key point is that it is not costing the Federal Government one thing, the $3.1 billion being proposed will be sourced by the sponsors and the partners.”

15 companies were pre-qualified and were all invited to make presentations on their solutions to enable Nigeria realise its vision of attaining complete automation of its Customs operations and enthroning best practice methods as obtained in advanced countries.

Bionica Technologies W.A. Limited was the preferred bidder after a rigorous evaluation process. Bionica presented its bid together with a consortium namely, Huawei, Smiths Detection, Nuctech of China, Larsen & Toubro Group, and Paramount Group. The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) is both an equity investor and the Mandated Lead Arranger (MLA), which will facilitate loan syndication with foreign and local banks.

Source: Ships and Ports, September 2002

U.K. Starts Research on Brexit Customs System Due in Four Months

Marcin Jozwiak – Uplash

The British government has started to conduct research on its new post-Brexit customs IT system, with four months left before the service is due to go live.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, which is in charge of handling the new customs paperwork that will apply to UK-EU trade from 2021, has invited hauliers to participate in rounds of remote-user testing in the coming months for its Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS), according to a memo to the freight forwarding industry.

The GVMS – which is set to be used to police cross-Irish Sea trade from Jan 1 2021, and then all UK-EU goods flows from July – will give freight companies a unique reference number that proves that they have filed the necessary post-Brexit paperwork, such as customs declarations.

Without a reference from the GVMS, trucks will not be allowed to cross between the UK and EU.

The fact that the GVMS is still in the research and design phase less than 90 working days before it is due to be introduced is a cause for concern in the logistics industry: one freight forwarder, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said they are worried the service won’t be completed and functional on time.

The new system will be required even if Britain and the EU sign a free-trade agreement.

And while consultation with the industry is welcome, it would have been preferable to do such research during the system design process, said Anna Jerzewska, founder of Trade and Borders, a customs and trade consultancy.

“The Government has made it clear that GVMS is unlikely to be ready for January 1 and as far as we understand there will be back-up procedures in place,” she said.

“It will be crucial to ensure that such alternatives are available in places where traffic management will be important,” she said, citing Kent and the Irish Sea.

In the memo, HMRC says it wants to start the first round of testing “ASAP” due to the shortage of time.

The tests will involve hour-long video calls where hauliers try prototypes and give feedback.

“When designing a system that the industry will be using, it is important we work in partnership with them to make sure it suits their and our needs,” HMRC said by email.

“We will continue to develop our systems in readiness for the end of the transition period and when full border controls are implemented from July 2021.”

Source: Bloomberg, article authored by Joe Mayes, 28 August 2020

Nigerian Customs – New IT System flounders

Tin Can Island Nigeria

Nigerian importers operating in all ports in Lagos are facing a tough time in clearing their consignments via the new Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) clearing platform, created to facilitate trade.

The platform

The new IT platform introduced to aid smooth clearance of cargo at the various port terminals has been given the Service sleepless nights before it was further wrecked by windstorm few days ago.

The platform, called Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NCIS)II is an improvement on  earlier automation processes such as Automate System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), ASYCUDA 2.3, ASYCUDA 2.7,ASYCUDA ++, and NICIS I, which is a software specially created to enhance seamless cargo clearance.

Under ASYCUDA, agents could only make five declarations in one hour, but under the NICIS II, they can make up to 18 declarations within an hour.

Also, under NICIS I, customs agents could view what other control agencies such as National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) are doing with their declarations. Similarly, they could actually interact with these agencies under NICIS II.

The new software had earlier been launched at Lilypond Terminal, Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML) and Tin Can Customs Commands.

Disruption

However its failure has affected cargo clearance at the ports in Lagos, Tin Can Island, and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) twice this month during a heavy downpour.

The disruption was more pronounced at Lagos Port, which handles the largest imports just two weeks when it migrated to the new platform after its trial at Lilypond, PTML and Tin Can commands.

Challenges

Speaking on the challenges, the Assistant Comptroller of Customs in charge of Customs Processing Centre (CPC), Apapa command, Yahaya Muktar highlighted some of the challenges the command had faced since the NCIS II took off two weeks ago, namely –

  • that the migration from ASYCUDA system to NCIS II platform had caused a little disruption in revenue generation, however he said that the command had caught up on what was initially lost to the mixed up; and
  • that the recent windstorm also contributed to the teething problems experienced at the command.

He explained that the service had not been able to access any work because of the server failure.

For the first week, there was no revenue collected. In the second week, when NCS got acclimatised to it, NCS collected N4.3 billon in a day which has now made up for the three days where no revenue was collected.

At the moment, the Lagos Port had only one scanning machine and that this was not adequate for the backlog of pending containers to be cleared. It was also confirmed that scanners were not working in some port terminals (Tin Can).

Requests for inspection were not being triggered properly resulting inspections not being completed.

Issues are also being experienced with debit notes resulting in importers being billed twice.

Many users were reluctant about using the new IT platform in the light of all the difficulties.

The challenges experienced range from network to various hardware and software technical issues. The NCS’s technical partner, Webb Fontaine is working with the implementation team to ensure normal resumption of customs processing for trade.

Source: New Telegraph Online, original article by Bayo Akomolafe, 30 May 2018

Namibia Revenue Agency Bill – Finance officials to reapply for jobs

Namibia flagOver 1 380 finance ministry officials will be required to reapply for their jobs when the proposed state-owned Namibia Revenue Agency is formed.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein tabled the Namibia Revenue Agency Bill 2017 to pave the way for the creation of the independent agency which will assess and collect taxes.

The agency will not only extract the largest part of the finance ministry’s workforce, but a proposed law tabled last week suggests that the new parastatal should be allowed to attract experts by paying more than what other civil servants currently earn.

When he tabled the proposed bill in the National Assembly last week, Schlettwein said 730 officials from the Inland Revenue department and 650 from the directorate of customs will have to reapply for their jobs when the new agency opens next year.

According to Schlettwein, the two departments make up 79% of the total staff at the finance ministry.

Schlettwein told The Namibian yesterday that the finance ministry has a total workforce of 1 740, but the two departments have up to 1 380 workers.

“To further avoid compromising on the skills needed for the agency, there will be no automatic transfer of existing staff of the departments of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise to the new institution,” the minister stated.

However, finance officials will be offered the first opportunity to apply and compete for jobs offered at the new agency before the platform is opened up to the public, he said.

“As such, arrangements will be made to ensure that the selection process is transparent and adheres to best practices,” Schlettwein added.

According to the minister, officials at the finance ministry who fail to get jobs at the new tax agency will be offered positions elsewhere in government, as stipulated in the Public Service Act.

He said some officials at the agency will also be highly paid in order to attract the best talent.

“The agency will be exempted from the public service rules and public enterprises remuneration guidelines,” he noted.

The 2017/18 budget documents indicate that the finance ministry will spend N$28 million on salaries and other benefits. Schlettwein said the new parastatal will start working next year at a date yet to be announced, adding that there is a need to manage the transition process well to avoid making costly mistakes.

He said for now, a finance ministry and revenue agency task team will finalise the transitional aspects for the establishment of the agency.

“This entails further consultations on the operational modalities, the determination of the recruitment process, and proposals for the draft internal policies of the new institution in preparation for the recruitment of the board and senior management of the agency,” Schlettwein stated.

The minister said one of the functions of setting up a highly-paying tax body is to catch companies and individuals who are taking advantage of loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

“We are a resource-based economy, which comes with the potential for illicit financial flows, transfer pricing, profit shifting and other base-eroding tax planning activities,” he said.

Illicit financial flows involve money illegally earned, transferred or used which crosses national borders. Culprits are usually multinational companies and criminals.

The minister said tackling illicit financial flows will require specialised skills, which could not be optimised in the public service due to a lack of skills.

Tackling illicit financial flows will give President Hage Geingob’s administration plaudits for tackling corporate and financial cheating.

The real impact of illicit financial flows on Namibia is currently not known, as the government continues to rely on international statistics when commenting on the subject.

For instance, the United States-based think tank, Global Financial Integrity, said in its 2012 report that Namibia lost around N$5,6 billion per year to illegal activities between 2001 to 2010.

The Namibia Revenue Agency will be run by a seven-member board on a three-year term. The board members will be appointed by the minister from experts selected from state entities, such as the permanent secretary from the finance ministry, the commissioner, and five members who will be appointed based on areas of expertise such as taxation, law, auditing and human resources.

A commissioner will be appointed as the chief executive for five years. The chief executive can only serve for a maximum two terms (10 years), but his/her second-term appointment should be based on “excellence” in performance, and at the discretion of the finance minister. Source: The Namibia, 2017-06-27. Author: Shinovene Immanuel

SARS publishes updated EDI User Manual

sars-edi-user-manualSARS has been operating Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) with its external stakeholders since 2001. More than 98% of all customs declaration (CUSDEC) transactions are today submitted electronically to Customs and the electronic submission of multimodal cargo reports (CUSCAR) is steadily increasing. Today, declaration processing is fully electronic end-to-end thanks to the availability of highly established EDI and Customs software service providers supporting the local customs and logistics community. SARS has also recently introduced a benefit for compliant cargo reporters who will be absolved of certain manual (paper) submission requirements once they attain an acceptable level of electronic submission compliance and data accuracy.

The ultimate objective is to ensure that all Customs-to-Business (C2B) transactions are electronic to enable full supply chain connectivity between the South African business community and Customs. This in turn enables the possibility of SARS accrediting or approving ‘supply chains’ as opposed to just individual trader segments (importers and exporters). The extent of electronic compliance is also a pivotal requirement for traders operating under the new Customs Control Act, to be enacted in the future.

SARS overall EDI capability extends further than declarations and cargo reports. In recent years Customs-to-Government (C2G) messaging has also been successfully established between SARS and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) as well as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). SARS is also engaging other government stakeholders concerning IT connectivity and data exchange.

Moreover, developments for cross-border Customs-to-Customs (C2C) data exchange are also in the pipeline and could come to fruition with the partner administrations in Mozambique and Swaziland in the foreseeable future. These initiatives will usher in increased supply chain connectivity through active use of the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) between participating customs administrations. The ultimate objective here is the creation of mutual recognition benefits for local and cross-border traders based on their accreditation status agreed between the participating customs administrations.

The SARS Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Manual (which can be downloaded from the SARS EDI webpage) has been updated with the latest versions of SARS Edifact Data Mapping Guides as well as improved diagrams explaining the functional composition of the various electronic messages specified for Customs processing. Also included are the requirements for registering as an EDI user with SARS.

The manual includes recent updates relating to cargo reporting (manifests) as well as the updated customs declaration message incorporating recent inclusion of customs surety, penalty and forfeiture requirements. The latter enhancement removes another document based requirement (the Form DA70 Provisional Payment) for Customs Brokers with the view streamlining data requirements, enhancing customs billing and customs status reporting with the trade and logistics community. This EDI Manual will be an important document over the coming months and years in that it will feature updated electronic requirements in support of the new Customs Control Act. Watch this space!

WCO accredited Customs Modernization Advisors and Mercator Programme Advisors

The WCO, in its effort to assist Members with Strategic Planning activities and WTO TFA implementation held two back to back accreditation workshops in Pretoria, South Africa. These events were held during the week of 1-5 February 2016 and 8-12 February 2016, were funded by the United Kingdom within the framework of the WCO-DFID ESA project and HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD project and organizationally supported by the South African Revenue Service.

24Customs officers from the WCO ESA and WCA regions participated in the workshops and were assessed against the Customs Modernization Advisors (CMAs) and Mercator Programme Advisors (MPAs) required profile through a series of testing exercises, presentations, role-plays, group activities and plenary discussions.

Participants were also required to demonstrate their knowledge and strategic application of core WCO tools and instruments and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement along with their potential to facilitate discussions with senior Customs and other officials in a strategic context.

At these two events 15 participants successfully completed step 1 of the accreditation process as they demonstrated their potential to become CMA’s/MPA’s during the range of workshop activities.

From the five WCO CMA/MPA accreditation events held to date a total of 41 participants have been assessed as being suitable to become CMAs and MPAs under step 1 of the accreditation process and will be invited to participate in TFA implementation support missions under the Mercator Programme in order to complete the accreditation process. It is expected that the successful candidates are made available by their Customs administrations for further support missions in the future. Source: WCO

WCO facilitates Data Model training for SARS

WCO Data Model Workshop, Pretoria, South Africa, Dec. 2015

SARS’ EDI and Customs Business Systems representatives with WCO Data Model facilitators Mr. Giandeo Mungroo (2nd from the left) and Ms. Sue Probert (2nd from the right) [Photo – SARS]

Officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) last week attended a WCO workshop on the Data Model facilitated by Ms. Sue Probert and Mr. Giandeo Mungroo. The event, held in Pretoria, South Africa was sponsored by the CCF of China as part of the WCO’s Capacity Building endeavours to promote the adoption and use of customs standards and best practice amongst it’s  member states.

The workshop was requested by SARS ahead of new technical and systems developments and requirements informed by SARS’ new Customs Control and Duty Acts. Moreover, there are also political ambition to institute a Border Management Agency for the Republic of South Africa. All of this requires that SARS Customs has a robust electronic tool to assist the organisation in mapping national data requirements according to specific needs.

Besides the use of a value added Data Model tool – GEFEG, it is imperative for the organisation to develop capacity in the knowledge and understanding of the WCO Data Model. SARS has successfully EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) for the last 15 years with various local supply chain trading partners and government agencies. Over the last few years SARS has been actively pursuing and promoting IT connectivity with regional trading partners with the express purpose to extend the benefits of eCommerce across borders.

GEFEG.FX software is used to model data formats and develop implementation guidelines for data interchange standards such as UN/EDIFACT. It is a software tool that brings together modelling, XML schema development, and editing of classic EDI standards under a unified user interface, and supports the development of multilingual implementation guidelines.

Version 3 of the WCO Data Model brought about a distinct shift towards an ‘all-of-government’ approach at international borders with the introduction of the GOVCBR (Government Cross Border Regulatory) message. The message and underlying data requirements facilitate the exchange of customs and other government regulatory information to support a Single Window environment.

WCO Data Model not only includes data sets for different customs procedures but also information needed by other Cross-border Regulatory Agencies for the cross-border release and clearance at the border. The WCO Data Model supports the implementation of a Single Window as it allows the reporting of information to all government agency through the unique way it organizes regulatory information. This instrument is already 10 years old and is seeing increased use by WCO members.

Amongst the benefits derived from the workshop, SARS staff acquired the following competencies that will not only aid their work but business user support as well –

  • Competence in operating the tool to build a source control collaborative environment to support national and regional harmonization;
  • Competence to build a base to conduct national/ regional data harmonization based on the WCO Data Model to support national Single Window implementation as well as Regional Integration;
  • Competence to build systems/ electronic interfaces between Customs and its partner government agencies including a Border Management Agency; and
  • Provide needed competence to develop, maintain and publish national and regional information packages based on the WCO Data Model.

SA – Hub for computerised Regional Integration?

AfricaFrom time to time it is nice to reflect on a good news story within the local customs and logistics industry. Freight & Trade Weekly’s (2015.11.06, page 4) article – “SA will be base for development of single customs platform” provides such a basis for reflection. The article reports on the recent merger of freight industry IT service providers Compu-Clearing and Core Freight and their plans to establish a robust and agile IT solution for trade on the African sub-continent.

In recent years local software development companies have facilitated most of the IT changes emerging from the Customs Modernisation Programme. Service Providers also known as computer bureaus have been in existence as far back as the early 1980’s when Customs introduced its first automated system ‘CAPE’. They have followed and influenced Customs developments that have resulted in the modern computerised and electronic communication platforms we have today. For those who do not know there are today at least 20 such service providers bringing a variety of software solutions to the market. Several of these provide a whole lot more than just customs software, offering solutions for warehousing, logistics and more. As the FTW article suggests, ongoing demands by trade customers and the ever-evolving technology space means that these software solutions will offer even greater customization, functionality, integration and ease of use for customers.

What is also clear is that these companies are no longer pure software development houses. While compliance with Customs law applies to specific parties required to registered and/or licensed for Customs purposes, the terrain on which the software company plays has become vital to enable these licensees or registrants the ‘ability to comply’ within the modern digital environment. This means that Service Providers need to have more than just IT skills, most importantly a better understanding of the laws affecting their customers – the importers, exporters, Customs brokers, freight forwarders, warehouse operators, etc.

Under the new Customs Control Act, for instance, the sheer level of compliance – subject to punitive measures in the fullness of time – will compel Service Providers to have a keen understanding of both the ‘letter of the law’ as well as the ability to translate this into user-friendly solutions that will provide comfort to their customers. Comfort to the extent that Customs registrants and licensees will have confidence that their preferred software solutions not only provide the tools for trading, but also the means for compliance of the law. Then, there is also the matter of scalability of these solutions to keep pace with ongoing local, regional and global supply chain demands.

The recent Customs Modernisation Programme realised significant technological advances with associated benefits for both SARS and trade alike. For the customs and shipping industry quantification of these benefits probably lies more in ‘improved convenience’ and ‘speed’ of the customer’s interaction with SARS than cost-savings itself. My next installment on this subject will consider the question of cross-border trade and how modern customs systems can influence and lead to increased regional trade.

WCO supported Sub – Saharan Africa Customs Modernization Programmes – 3rd Newsletter

WCO Capacity Building Magazine 3rd Edition.ashxThe WCO – Sub – Saharan African Customs Modernization Programme funded by the government of Sweden comprises four projects, namely the WCO- EAC CREATe , the WCO– SACU Connect, the WCO– WACAM and the WCO– INAMA Projects. In their totality, the projects support regional Customs Unions in Africa in their mission to facilitate trade without compromising the security of their country and the safety of their citizens. The newsletter will appear quarterly and will inform on ongoing tasks as well as give an overview of future activities. Source: WCO

TFA – Africa is on the move! Why not go faster?

WTO LogoThe following article is published with the kind permission of the author, Tapia Naula who is Principal Transport Economist at African Development Bank, based in the Ivory Coast. He is an international project manager and transport economist with experience in logistics business, research and trade facilitation. This article is a must for anyone associated with or working on the TFA on the African sub-continent, and a bit of a wake up call to those countries who have as yet done little or nothing to progress their participation.

In the World TFA Cup Asia is leading Africa 72 – 35. The first scores of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement are out as member countries submit their Category A notifications. Initial results of the African first series are somewhat unfulfilling. Some teams are playing defensive even if attacking tactic is the only way to win.

In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”. Among trade facilitation practitioners the Agreement was received with great enthusiasm: finally there was a legal instrument, which is concrete enough to make a difference! TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process. Section I contains substantive provisions in 12 main Articles. The members are required to categorize and notify each provision of the Agreement as either A, B or C Category. The A Category commits a country to implement the provision upon entry into force of the TFA, or one year after for LDC’s. For B-Category there will be a transitional period. C-Category provisions are allowed a transitional period, technical assistance and capacity building.

First, let it be said loud and clear: the WTO TFA is an excellent collection of modern trade and transport facilitation instruments in one folder. In developing countries its implementation would mean reforms that would save time, money and efforts for regular business people and consumers. These reforms may be painful but the countries that can do it, will be the future winners of their regional competition and they will be the ones that will most benefit from joining the global value chains. TFA is the best vehicle for poverty reduction invented so far and that is why it is so important.

In August, 2015, 14 African countries and 25 Asian countries had submitted notifications for category A provisions. Asian countries had “accepted” 72 % of all the provisions as A-Category commitments on average where the respective share of the African countries is only 35 %. On Article-level African countries lag behind on every Article except one (Table 1).

In addition to the low overall share of category A-notifications, the African notifications generally look like “random picks” of sub-paragraphs, compared to many Asian members that have commonly chosen the strategy of basically accepting the whole Agreement and making exceptions for certain few paragraphs according to their particular needs.

Were African governments well-informed of the impact and substance of each paragraph – or are they just being cautious, perhaps trying to delay the final commitment? The patterns between African and Asian countries are in any case different.

Table 1

TFA includes also “low hanging fruit” – sections that require little technical expertise to be implemented. At least some of these should have been easy for member countries to accept. “Publication and Availability of Information” is one of those sections. Access to information through internet is routine and affordable. It should not require transition periods or particular technical assistance. Donors are even competing to assist governments with such low cost and high-return activities. Still, less than one third of the African Governments notified this Article.

Here are some other peculiar findings:

  • Out of 14 African countries only Morocco accepted “Border Agency Cooperation” as A –Category provision. Three of the others countries that did not notify it are landlocked countries;
  • Only four out of 14 African countries had fully notified “Freedom of Transit.” Transit challenges in Africa are probably the single most significant source of inefficiency in trade logistics;
  • One of the foundations of modern customs management is the introduction of Risk Management. Only 3 out of 14 African countries had notified this provision;
  • Only Morocco notified Trade Facilitation Measures for Authorized Economic Operators (AEO), which gives certain privileges to traders and transport operators, who show high level of compliance to regulations. One wonders why Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania did not notify it as we know that an AEO program is being piloted in the East African Community;
  • Only Senegal notified the sub-Article on Single Window, which is probably the most important one of the whole Agreement. Senegal perhaps deserves this honor – being the first truly African-based single window country – and also representing the good practice of SW management. Yet, according to the African Alliance for e-Commerce, currently there are at least 16 other single windows either already operational or under development in Africa. Why weren’t these developments recognized?

Despite the above “peculiarities” the African situation is fortunately nowhere near as somber as the A-Category notifications indicate. There are plenty of trade and transport facilitation initiatives under implementation – and Africa is indeed “on the Move.” We should on one hand side make sure that the valuable TFA Agreement is not becoming a separate formal process alongside the practical actions on the ground, but rather a framework for coaching governments in climbing up the stairs toward greater competitiveness. On the other hand, the countries should not ignore the existing achievements. A lot has been achieved in Africa in recent years and this process should go on and gain speed. Some sub-regions, which have been less successful in this field need  benchmarks, encouraging and coaching. This is where African and international organizations can play a role.

Although the direct cost of TFA implementation is relatively low, the indirect cost may be extremely high. The indirect cost concerns existing structures, which generate income for organizations and individuals, who often greatly benefit from the status quo. Some governments have entered into concessions outsourcing critical government functions such as pre-customs clearance operations and processing and submissions of declarations to customs. Western firms have efficiently seized the opportunity and negotiated deals, which guarantee profits for in many cases for decades to come. Single Windows in certain countries are good examples for these. In an unnamed Southern African country for example, humanitarian aid is exempt from taxes and duties in import. If however a UN agency for example imports a container of pharmaceuticals worth five million USD, it will have to pay for a Single Window fee of 42,500 USD! Such Ad Valorem fee arrangements are against the TFA. Such concessions are often built inside structures, which profit from the concessions and in exchange – protects its operations and continuity. This is why they are difficult to tackle. This is an example of the problematics that African policy makers must deal with when taking a position in committing in TFA provisions. It may be a whole lot more complicated than what it looks like.

Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.
Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.

The diagram above shows the association of share of the provisions that have been covered by A-Category notifications and the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of the countries. For African countries the correlation is moderate (correlation co-efficient: 0.42) but for Asian countries the association is strong (correlation co-efficient: 0.73). The association of the two variables is understandable: the less corruption a country has (the higher the CPI rank is), the more reforms the government is in liberty to conduct (the higher coverage of TFA as A-category Notifications).

We need to better understand the underlying reasons why policymakers cannot let reforms take off. Traditions, corruption and outdated structures are usually the biggest obstacles. These cannot be overcome by merely providing short-term technical assistance and bench-marking the world best practices but only strong political leadership can make the change. Developing partners should raise this topic on the highest political level and “live together” through the reforms with the counterparts.

The Northern Corridor (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) provides an encouraging example how multiple reforms can be carried out in very short time. Only two years ago it took staggering 27 days to transport a container from Mombasa Port and deliver it in Kigali, Rwanda. Today it takes only seven days. The improvement was enabled by series of reforms, which were championed by the Heads of States of the Corridor member countries. The example proves that major improvements can indeed be achieved in very short time. On the other hand, even with the most sophisticated instruments, reforms will not succeed if there the high-level ownership is not there. Author: Tapio Naula

Namibia Launches Trade Portal

Namibian Trade PortalThe Namibia’s Ministry of Finance and Namibia’s Customs & Excise, in partnership with the U.S. government has recently launched a powerful new tool to increase and facilitate cross-border trade. The “Namibia Trade Information Portal” is a web-based platform that provides an authoritative “one-stop shop” of readily accessible trade, customs and compliance information. It is designed to significantly reduce the time and effort required for local and international traders to access current information and documentation required for doing business. The portal is the culmination of many years of collaboration between government of Namibia agencies and ministries and the U.S. government, working through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Trade Hub Project.

In his keynote address, Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein said that the Trade Portal reflects the commitment of the Namibian government to build a “robust, knowledge-based society” through various modernization projects. However, he cautioned that the portal must be kept up-to-date if it is to be sustainable and relevant.

“For this reason, I strongly appeal to my fellow and counterpart ministers to designate focal points in their ministries who shall administer and avail timely updates, preferably online transmission of such information to our designated team in the Ministry of Finance who will, in turn, keep the portal updated,” Schlettwein said.

According to Namibia Trade Information Portal’s project manager, Melannie Tjijenda, the portal will save people time when they enquire about trade-related matters, so they will no longer be sent ‘from office to office.’

“International traders will now know how they can invest in Namibia,” she said, adding that this will save money on expenses like phone calls.

Tjijenda said the fact that most government websites are not regularly updated will not be the case with this portal. “When something changes, we will update it” she said, further pointing out that they have a team of content managers who will be checking and updating the content on regular basis. Source: The Namibian/USAID

New life for Legacy Software as NZ Customs Border Project falters

Customs 175 Years Seal

Customs 175 Years Seal

A new NZ$140 million border management system was supposed to replace and retire twenty year old software but New Zealand’s Customs Service is now describing the legacy CusMod system as “suitable for continued use” after server and software upgrades.

In a hearing on Budget estimates before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee, Customs was unable to set a date for retirement of the old system even after having spent NZ$104 million so far on its replacement.

In 2007, Customs said there was a significant risk CusMod couldn’t continue to respond to changes in global trade and travel, continue to manage emerging risks such as international crime or meet revenue collection objectives.

Eight years later, the agency is told Parliament “very large” amounts of information are still stored in CusMod, it is still considered an important tool and will be retained “for the time being”.

The hearing also revealed the planned second tranche of the Joint Border Management System (JBMS) project, focusing on risk and intelligence, will not proceed as planned and is being replaced with modular implementations with no specified delivery date.

Customs also explained that “legal discussions” were required to manage the agency’s relationship with vendor IBM and to recast the original JBMS contract.

The first tranche of the JBMS started life with a budget of just NZ$75.9 million and was to be completed by the end of 2012, but Customs Minister Nicky Wagner is denying suggestions of a budget blowout.

Wagner said the project was within budget, and additional funding was not expected to be sought.

“The minister commented that the combined cost for tranche one and two was originally planned to total NZ$140 million, and NZ$104 million has been expended so far,” the committee’s report says.

Customs assured the committee the completed JBMS would meet the aspirations of functionality set out in 2011. The project is expected to be completed by 2015/16. Source: ZDnet.com

Inclusiveness Through Information Technologies – Launch of the 14th IT Conference & Exhibition

Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomes  delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers.

Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomes delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers.

The 14th annual WCO IT Conference & Exhibition was officially opened on 6 May 2015 in Freeport (Bahamas). Senior Government representatives of The Bahamas Government opened the 3-day Conference in the presence of over 400 participants from 75 countries.

The Right Honorouble Perry Gladstone Christie, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas thanked the WCO for choosing The Bahamas for this very important global Conference. The hosting of this WCO event is an example of the government’s commitment to bring business opportunities to Grand Bahama!

The Prime Minister further continued by reminding the delegates that the WTO concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013 and about its potential of reducing international trade costs of approximately 12%. He underlined that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement owes much to the technical work that had already been carried out at the World Customs Organization.

In his speech, the Prime Minister stressed: “Our efforts are very much consistent with the theme of this Conference “Inclusiveness Through Information Technology”. It is in our interest here in The Bahamas to pursue an inclusive approach to the introduction of the new IT systems. These new systems must bring benefits, not only to government, but also to commercial operators and to the general public who will use these services. We recognize that with the introduction of these IT systems we must adopt a more client focused and customer orientated approach to make it easier to conduct business.”

The Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomed the delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers. The Secretary General emphasized the theme of this year’s Conference “Inclusiveness Through Information Technologies”, adding that it addresses three key priorities of the WCO Members – Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, Regional Economic Integration and Coordinated Border Management.

Mr. Charles Turner, Comptroller of Customs and Excise Department of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, stressed that the IT Conference & Exhibition comes at an important juncture for The Bahamas as the Customs Department implements the Trade Sector Support Program. Having such a broad range of exhibitors and international delegates provides a rare opportunity to share ideas and learn from the experiences of others. Source: WCO

Dubai Customs Receives Enterprise Architecture Award

main_building_of_Dubai_CustomsDubai Customs (DC) has earned the coveted Enterprise Architecture Award 2015, presented by Frost & Sullivan; a world leader in growth consulting and the integrated areas of technology research, market research, mega trends, economic research, customer research, competitive intelligence, and corporate strategy.

The award was presented to Dubai Customs to recognise its Business Capability Management, developed by the Business Process and Enterprise Architecture at the Customs Development Division to upgrade corporate capability at Dubai Customs.

Commenting on the advantages of the Business Capability Management, Juma Al Ghaith, Executive Director of Customs Development Division, said that the project provides a comprehensive connected view of DC’s business capability and determines the gaps and requirements of business units while putting forth a plan to fill these gaps. It also pinpoints strength and weakness points to help make informed decisions, offers improvement recommendations for business capabilities and devises an action plan for implementing these recommendations.

Creatively upgrading the enterprise architecture helps create a conducive environment for divisions and departments in DC to bond and better manage capabilities, allowing DC to determine its structural strategy and formulate a clear road map and initiatives for corporate changes.

The Enterprise Connected View links and documents all corporate components, allowing a more accurate and speedy decision making process and facilitating an effective change management.

Counting Frost & Sullivan’s EA Award 2015 in, Dubai Customs has scooped three global awards for its “Business Capability Management and Enterprise Architecture” in 2014 and 2015,The Business Capability Management focuses on four aspects: People, Process, Technology and Information.It identifies capabilities and measures them against world-class criteria to ensure optimal performance, revenue and sustainability.

Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practices Awards recognize companies throughout a range of regional and global markets for superior leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Frost & Sullivan, founded in 1961, has more than 40 global offices with more than 1,800 industry consultants, market research analysts, technology analysts and economists. Source: CustomsToday.pk

WCO – Sub-Saharan Africa Customs Modernization Programme Newsletter

WCO Sub-Saharan Customs Modernisation Programme NewsletterHerewith a new newsletter informing about developments of Capacity Building Projects in Sub- Saharan African Customs Unions as sponsored by the government of Sweden. The project includes the WCO- EAC CREATE Project, the WCO- WACAM Project, The SACU Connect Project and the WCO INAMA Project.

With this newsletter we share with you updates about ongoing activities as well as an outlook for the events of the upcoming months. Click this hyperlink to download the newsletter.

Whilst this newsletter can only provide a snapshot of key developments, it may raise your awareness and encourage you to address us for more detailed publications or to contact us. Source: WCO