SAFE Working Group urges greater harmonization of AEO programmes

Picture – Nazarizal Mohammed

The 26th/27th Meetings of the SAFE Working Group (SWG) were held successfully from 11 to 14 April 2022. The virtual meetings brought together more than 260 delegates representing Customs administrations, the Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG), other international organizations and academia.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, WCO Director of Compliance and Facilitation, highlighted that the SWG had reached an important juncture as the new three-year SAFE review cycle 2021-2024 was about to enter into discussions. It was pointed out that 17 years after it was first published, the SAFE Framework of Standards (FoS) had garnered substantial interest from WCO Members. During the meetings, Guyana became the 172nd WCO Member to express its interest in implementing the SAFE FoS. 

With a view to continued enhancement of the AEO criteria and provisions to strengthen the SAFE FoS, WCO Members made several new proposals to revise the Framework. The SWG also received feedback from the private sector on the urgent need to enhance the harmonization of SAFE and AEO implementation. In this context, the SWG heard a presentation by the WCO Anti-Corruption and Integrity Promotion (A-CIP) Programme on maintaining the integrity and transparency of AEO implementation.

On this occasion, the SWG reviewed and adopted the new Work Plan for 2022-2024, which reflected the critical activities the SWG will carry out over the next two years until 2024, in parallel with the SAFE review cycle. The SWG also received an update on the development of new features for the Online AEO Compendium (OAC) and the other extensive work underway in collaboration with other international organizations in the areas of security and facilitation.

Against the backdrop of the WCO’s theme for 2022, the panel discussion on “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem” attracted significant interest from Members and the private sector. The experienced speakers from Member Customs administrations, the private sector and the Secretariat enriched the discussions by sharing their best practices on using data for enhancing risk management and monitoring AEO programmes.

As a way forward, the SWG agreed that efforts will be reserved for a comprehensive review to assess and monitor SAFE implementation for greater harmonization of AEO programmes globally.

Source: World Customs Organisation, 25 April 2022

WCO/WTO – “The role of advanced technologies in cross-border trade: A customs perspective”

The WCO and the World Trade Organization (WTO) held a webinar to launch their joint publication on Customs use of advance technologies.  The event attracted more than 700 attendees and provided insights into how advanced technologies can help Customs administrations facilitate the flow of goods across borders. The publication titled, “The role of advanced technologies in cross-border trade: A customs perspective” provides the current state of play and sheds light on the opportunities and challenges Customs face when deploying these technologies.

The publication outlines the key findings of WCO’s 2021 Annual Consolidated Survey and its results on Customs’ use of advanced technologies such as blockchain, the internet of things, data analytics and artificial intelligence to facilitate trade and enhance safety, security and fair revenue collection. 

The joint publication highlights the benefits that can result from the adoption of these advanced technologies, such as enhanced transparency of procedures, sharing of information amongst all relevant stakeholders in real time, better risk management, and improved data quality, leading to greater efficiency in Customs processes and procedures.

In his remarks, WCO Deputy Secretary General Ricardo Treviño Chapa said, “Technologies will assist implementation of international trade facilitation rules and standards, such as the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. We are therefore delighted to be partnering with the WTO, to ensure that our work in assisting our Members’ digital transformation journeys is complementary, that we bring all relevant partners to the same table, and that we avoid duplication.”

In her opening remarks, WTO Deputy Director-General Anabel González noted, “Advanced technologies offer customs an opportunity to take a big leap forward on trade facilitation. Take blockchain. Its widespread application could help us make trade both more transparent and less paper intensive. That would reduce trade costs, which is good news for everyone, especially small businesses, which are disproportionately affected by red tape at the border.”

The webinar presented the main findings from the WCO/WTO paper and featured presentations by BrazilNigeriaSingapore and the Inter-American Development Bank. For a greater uptake of these technologies, the speakers underlined the importance of continuous sensitization of Customs and other stakeholders, the need for interoperability and implementation of international standards, the relevance of engaging in dialogues at international level, as well as having a strategy and space for innovation and testing at national level.

The full publication can be accessed here.

WTO – Trade in Knowledge

The WTO has launched a new book entitled “Trade in Knowledge: Intellectual Property, Trade and Development in a Transformed Global Economy” on 31 March. At the launch event, a wide cross-section of contributors to the publication discussed how their research and analysis had a bearing on current issues lying at the intersection of development, trade, technology and the diffusion of knowledge.

Drawing together insights from a diverse range of leading international scholars and analysts, the publication explores how to build more inclusive, up-to-date and precise ways of measuring knowledge flows, discusses how more nuanced and effective use of these data may guide policymakers and provides insights into the prospects for knowledge-based social and economic development, moving legacy models and adapting to the realities of the contemporary knowledge economy. The book also proposes ideas for updated systems of governance that promote positive sum approaches to the creation and sharing of the benefits of knowledge as a public good, with a view to informing planning for development.

The book’s table of contents is available here.

Source: World Trade Organisation

WCO News – First Edition 2022

WCO News features an article by the Secretariat on the WCO Data Model – the common language for border management-related processes which enable information to flow seamlessly across different IT systems. The article focuses on the latest data requirements and processes which have been included in the Model through collaboration with stakeholders in the maritime, food safety, waste management and postal sectors. In addition, it offers some practical guidance to Customs administrations which are considering adopting the Model and calls on economic operators to use it in their commercial processes also, as it covers some of the data elements found in commercial documents such as the invoice, packing list and bill of lading.

This is followed by an article by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) introducing various projects dealing with the collection, analysis and sharing of data. The author also emphasizes that a culture of innovation has emerged within BURS, and that the working environment supports creative thinking and the generation of new or improved products, services and processes.

The third article presents the results of, and lessons learned from, the first International Survey on Customs Administration (ISOCA), which was co-managed by the WCO and the IMF with the aim of collecting quantitative and qualitative data on Customs administrations and enabling comparisons to be made between countries that share common features. A higher number of participants is required for the Survey to provide a global view of the roles played by Customs administrations, and of their practices. I hope more administrations will participate in future editions of the Survey, which will be simplified to strike a better balance between the need for accurate data and the burden of data collection.

In the next article, Dominican Republic Customs introduces the tools it has developed to measure the time required to release goods and support the Government’s Release in 24 Hours (D24H) Programme, whose objective is to turn the Dominican Republic into the logistics epicenter “par excellence” of the Caribbean region.

A further article takes us to Niger, where the Customs Administration recently financed a study into the use of satellite imagery to analyze cross-border trade flows. The article presents the information collected and explains how it will be used to reorganize operational services and provide efficient links within the territory.

The final article in this Dossier sheds light on the need for harmonization in the digitization of trade documents. This article by the ICC introduces the ICC’s Digital Standards Initiative (DSI), a collaborative cross-industry effort to advance the digitization of trade globally through the adoption of a set of standards.

Many other articles published in this edition of the WCO News directly or indirectly touch on data and on the role that information technology plays in making us more efficient. And this is true of all the editions of our magazine. You have heard or read it many times: in today’s world, it’s all about data. Data is strategic, and we all stand to gain by sharing experience and expertise on how best to manage it in a holistic way.

Source: WCOOMD, March 2022

Global Supply Chains Making a Huge Bet on Blockchain

System Shock: The $50 Trillion Industry Making a Huge Bet on Blockchain

Blockchain may one day eliminate inefficiencies and lack of transparency in supply chains. While slow in coming, this revolution would benefit not only customers and brands, but the “invisible” workers who power global trade.

In this episode of Bloomberg’s System Shock, we explore how cumbersome, paperwork-bound supply chains—like one stretching from kitchen refrigerators in Europe and the U.S. all the way back to a small farmer in Ecuador—are being transformed by that most modern of technologies.

Source: Bloomberg, System Shock, Gloria Kurnik, 26 January 2022

Pakistan Customs Joins TradeLens

By joining the blockchain-underpinned platform TradeLens, Pakistan Single Window is supporting Customs in modernizing its import-export documentation through a safe & secure, paperless, digital solution to strengthen its controls against trade-based money laundering.

On 20 December 2021, On behalf of Pakistan Customs, the Pakistan Single Window Company today signed an agreement with TradeLens, a blockchain-underpinned logistics platform supported by 5 of the 6 largest ocean carriers globally, to digitize import-export documentation of the containerized cargo moving in and out of the country. Pakistan’s international trade ecosystem is being rapidly transformed through the introduction of technology driven initiatives led by the Pakistan Single Window and the country’s authorities recognize the potential benefits of digitizing supply chains for efficiencies, enhanced transparency, and data-driven decision making.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Mr. Shaukat Tarin added, “Joining the TradeLens platform is allowing us to enhance our ecosystem in a way that all the involved stakeholders get access to a transparent and secure platform that makes processes more efficient.”

Cross-border containerized supply chains are some of the largest and most complex business ecosystems in the world today. It is not uncommon for 30 independent parties, 100 people and up to 200 exchanges of information to be connected to a single shipment. With increased complexity comes increased cost. Shippers or beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) need consistent, auditable and immutable data from multiple sources to effectively manage their supply chains.

The authorization to sign the collaboration came from the PSW Governing Council chaired by Mr. Shaukat Tarin. The Chief Executive Officer of PSW Aftab Haider formally signed the agreement with Irtaza Hussain, the Regional Head of Network for TradeLens at IBM.

PSW integration with TradeLens will help Pakistan Customs and other trade regulators to improve their operational efficiency and create value through the blockchain platform. The immutability of Blockchain-underpinned document information is important in the identification of illegal activities, as well as, improving the smooth operation of legal trade.

Marvin Erdly, Head of TradeLens at IBM. commented “The growth of the TradeLens’ network is evidence that participants from all across the supply chain ecosystem can derive significant value through digital collaboration.  Pakistan now joins an increasing number of connected Customs Authorities on the TradeLens platform exploring innovative solutions to enhance global trade access and enhance process efficiencies for all involved”.  

TradeLens is a neutral platform brings together data from the entire global supply chain ecosystem including shippers and cargo owners, 3PLs and freight forwarders, intermodal operators, customs and government authorities, ports and terminals, and several ocean carriers. This data allows TradeLens and its network partners to modernize manual and paper-based documents by replacing them with blockchain-enabled digital solutions. It also allows the network partners to provide their customers with deeper visibility into the entire journey for their cargo from origin to destination and reduce uncertainty allowing for better planning and reduced inventory costs. TradeLens welcomed it’s first network member in Pakistan, Al-Hamd International Container Terminal, earlier this year.  

Source: TradeLens, 28 December 2021

International Customs Day 2022

The WCO dedicates 2022 to the Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem

Traditionally, every year, the Customs community comes together on 26 January to mark International Customs Day. This day of celebration is a unique opportunity for WCO Members, the WCO Secretariat and global Customs’ partners to reflect on a particular theme and to act upon it. 

Thus, throughout 2022, under the slogan “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem”, the Customs community will be focusing on how to operate in a fully digital environment and create an operating model that captures and exploits data from across the trade ecosystem.

Over the years, digital technology has evolved rapidly and Customs can now tap into data from other government agencies, commercially available databases, and open-source information platforms such as digitized global public records and multilingual news sources. 

The extent to which data can be used effectively depends on various factors surrounding data ethics, including privacy, commercial secrecy and legal issues regarding the use of data by Customs and Tax administrations, and the importance assigned to innovation in public administrations. 

To build data ecosystems, or consolidate existing ones, the following enabling actions may be considered:

  • establishing formal data governance to ensure the relevance, accuracy and timeliness of data;
  • making use of the standards developed by the WCO and other institutions regarding data format and data exchange;
  • providing appropriate management of data to ensure that the right people have access to the right data, and that data protection regulations are respected; and,
  • adopting progressive approaches, such as data analytics, to collect and successfully exploit data to drive decision-making.

A robust data culture empowers people to ask questions, challenge ideas and rely on detailed insights, not just intuition or instinct, to make decisions.

In order to nurture a data-driven culture, administrations need to enhance the data-literacy of their staff – in other words, their ability to interpret and analyze data accurately. 

Customs administrations should integrate data science into their curriculums for newly recruited officers and participate in the development of distance learning courses to familiarize Customs officers with the collection and analysis of data in order to forge a data-driven culture. Staff also need to understand the bigger picture, namely the impact of Customs on the effective protection of society, trade facilitation and fair revenue collection. 

On the other hand, Customs administrations are invited to consider leveraging data in their relationships with other actors along the supply chain, as well as making data available to the public and academia as a means of enhancing transparency, stimulating the production of knowledge and enabling dialogue with civil society.

Sharing data analysis with other government agencies increases the role and visibility of Customs in policy-making and in obtaining necessary resources, including donor funding. Disseminating Customs data and information in society is part of governments’ response to the general demand for open governance.

To support Customs administrations, the WCO Secretariat has placed data-related topics on the agendas of several committees and working groups, organized awareness-raising seminars, developed e-learning modules, drafted a Capacity Building Framework for Data Analytics which was adopted by the WCO Council in December 2020, issued practical publications and published articles in the WCO News Magazine.

Moreover, a community of experts has been established, under the name of BACUDA (BAnd of CUstoms Data Analysts), which brings together Customs and data scientists with the objective of developing data analytics methodologies. 

The Secretariat will continue to investigate ways to collect and share data on Customs administrations with a view to enhancing the way it delivers capacity building, and will continue to undertake data-driven assessments and work with international experts to respond to assistance requests.

More measures will be presented in the WCO Data Strategy that the WCO Secretariat is currently working on. The ambition will be to make data a vernacular language among Customs administrations and between the WCO Secretariat and WCO Members. The road ahead is not an easy one, there will inevitably be challenges along the way, but as we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Customs community is united, stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity. 

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya

WCO Secretary General

26 January 2022

WCO – New technology-assisted capacity building: the Virtual Reality (VR) assisted training program

The WCO has announced that it has set up a VR training program with the support of CCF-Korea at the WCO Headquarters on 9th November 2021. 

This program was developed and first established in RTC Korea last September to support customs officials to learn and understand the basic procedures of physical inspection on containerized cargo at a maritime port.

With the help of VR devices and a cyber master, a trainee is requested to select one of three individual scenarios and detect contraband items such as drugs, counterfeit goods and explosives smuggled in imported cargo.

After selecting one case, documents have to be compared and discrepancies identified. The program will show necessary steps to wear safety gear, inspect the exterior of the container, scan it with ZBV vehicle and study the X-ray black/white and coloured images. In the following step, the container is opened and inspected with tools like a chisel, magnifying glass, scanner, etc., at a bonded area of a dedicated warehouse.

RTC Korea, KCS and WCO Secretariats contributed to the program production and provided materials on drug smuggling cases with pictures, advice on preparatory steps, inspection scenarios taking into account risk indicators from the WCO RM compendium.

The length of one training session is approximately 10 to 15 minutes depending on the trainee‘s progress, and the devices for the VR training are the headset, controller, high-end computer, TV screen and kiosk. The program also developed a screen version that Customs officials can play on their desktop computer and notebook and have the 3D experience.   

During the experience session, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the WCO, expressed high interest and called on feedback on future activities from those who experience the program to make it more relevant for Members’ capacity building. In this regard, the immediate task is to prove its effectiveness through regional capacity building activities and WCO meetings. 

Dr. Taeil Kang, the Director of Capacity Building Directorate expressed his plans to develop content for other topics including e-commerce transactions, X-ray image screening and uploading on CLiKC and installation in other WCO regions. 

For more information, please contact Sungsig Kim, CCF-Korea manager at the Capacity Building Directorate (sungsig.kim@wcoomd.org).

UNECE eTIR – Turning Borders into Bridges

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) administers the TIR Convention, which was established in 1959 and extensively revised in 1975 and which has, at present, 68 Contracting Parties. The TIR Convention provides for an internationally recognized procedure to facilitate the cross border transportation of goods in transit through the use of a standard, internationally recognized Customs document, the TIR Carnet, which also serves as proof of existence of an internationally valid guarantee.

For many years the TIR Convention proved to be an efficient facilitation tool. However, with the progress in technology, the use of the paper TIR Carnet is increasingly becoming archaic, in particular when it comes to linking it to the electronic procedures applied by national Customs administrations. At each border crossing, Customs officers are faced with additional work of having to key in up to 50 data elements into their national electronic Customs system. In addition, the current situation does not enable Customs authorities to effectively apply risk management procedures based on advance cargo information, as demanded by an increasingly more security-conscious environment.

The eTIR Project

The Contracting Parties to the TIR Convention launched in 2003 the so-called “eTIR Project”, aimed at providing an exchange platform for all actors (Customs authorities, holders, guarantee chains) involved in the TIR system, known as the “eTIR international system”. The eTIR international system aims to ensure the secure exchange of data between national Customs systems related to the international transit of goods, vehicles or containers according to the provisions of the TIR Convention and to allow Customs to manage the data on guarantees, issued by guarantee chains to holders authorized to use the TIR system.

For more information on eTIR click here!

For more information about eTIR Specifications click here!

For the eTIR flyer click here!

Peroni beer deploys blockchain for batch traceability

Italian beer brand Birra Peroni has started using EY’s blockchain platform for the purposes of supply chain traceability.

EY has said that the beer company will be using its EY OpsChain Traceability on the public Ethereum blockchain, with each batch having its own non-fungible token (NFT) – a unique, digital certificate of ownership.

Each NFT is recorded on the blockchain, digital ledger distributed around lots of different users instead of held centrally, with each transaction – for example as a product moves through the supply chain or is paid for – time stamped and encrypted to prevent tampering.

In simple terms, it is a technology to store and exchange information within a group in a secure, trustworthy, and efficient manner that doesn’t rely on the use of a database.

NFTs are becoming increasingly used to “tokenise” and confer ownership on physical and virtual goods – including fine art, collectibles and even the first-ever tweet by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

However, the technology is also being deployed to protect goods from counterfeiting and as a traceability tool for consumers who are increasingly demanding that the products they buy are made using sustainable and ethical ingredients.

Peroni – part of Japan’s Asahi Group – said using the technology will be a step forward in bringing visibility and transparency to its supply chain, for both consumers and supply chain partners.

“For Birra Peroni, the bond with the agricultural supply chain and the quality of our 100 per cent made-in-Italy malt are fundamental strategic assets,” commented Federico Sannella, the company’s corporate affairs director.

“We believe that sustainability is deeply related to the respect for the raw material, and we wanted to bring this value alive to our consumers, allowing them to follow the journey of the malt from the field to the bottle,” he added.

It’s not the first brewer to take this approach. AB InBev, which sells brands like Budweiser and Stella Artois, is running a blockchain pilot in Europe to give consumers a view of its barley supply chain via a QR code on the packaging.

MSC Introduces New Electronic Bill of Lading for Customers Worldwide Using WAVE BL’s Platform

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, a global leader in container shipping and logistics, is officially introducing the electronic bill of lading (eBL) for its customers around the world, following a successful pilot phase, using a solution on an independent blockchain platform WAVE BL. The eBL enables shippers and other key supply chain stakeholders to receive and transmit the bill of lading document electronically, without any change or disruption to day-to-day business operations.

WAVE BL is a blockchain-based system that uses distributed ledger technology to ensure that all parties involved in a cargo shipment booking can issue, transfer, endorse and manage documents through a secure, decentralised network. Users can issue all originals, negotiable or non-negotiable, and exchange them via a direct, encrypted, peer-to-peer transmission. It’s also possible for users to amend documents. WAVE BL’s communication protocol is approved by the International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs, and meets the highest industry standards for security and privacy.   

“MSC has chosen WAVE BL because it is the only solution that mirrors the traditional paper-based process that the shipping and cargo transportation industry is used to,” says André Simha, Global Chief Digital & Information Officer at MSC. “It provides a digital alternative to all the possibilities available with traditional print documents, just much faster and more secure.”

The WAVE BL platform can be used free of charge throughout 2021 for exporters, importers and traders. Users only pay for issuing the original documents, and they do not need to invest in any IT infrastructure or make operational changes in order to use the service. They can simply sign up via MSC’s website: www.msc.com/eBL.

Source: Mediterranean Shipping Company, 28 April 2021

EU – Import Control System 2 (ICS2)

The European Union makes it a top priority to ensure the security of its citizens and single market. Every year trillions of Euros worth of goods are imported into EU, with the EU-27 now accounting for around 15 % of the world’s trade in goods. The European Union is implementing a new customs pre-arrival security and safety programme, underpinned by a large-scale advance cargo information system – Import Control System 2 (ICS2). The programme is one of the main contributors towards establishing an integrated EU approach to reinforce customs risk management under the common risk management framework (CRMF).

The pre-arrival security and safety programme will support effective risk-based customs controls whilst facilitating free flow of legitimate trade across the EU external borders. It represents the first line of defence in terms of protection of the EU internal market and the EU consumers. The new programme will remodel the existing process in terms of IT, legal, customs risk management/controls and trade operational perspectives.

The EU’s new advance cargo information system ICS2 supports implementation of this new customs safety and security regulatory regime aimed to better protect single market and EU citizens. It will collect data about all goods entering the EU prior to their arrival. Economic Operators (EOs) will have to declare safety and security data to ICS2, through the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS). The obligation to start filing such declarations will not be the same for all EOs. It will depend on the type of services that they provide in the international movement of goods and is linked to the three release dates of ICS2 (15 March 2021, 1 March 2023, and 1 March 2024).

Advance cargo information and risk analysis will enable early identification of threats and help customs authorities to intervene at the most appropriate point in the supply chain.

ICS2 introduces more efficient and effective EU customs security and safety capabilities that will:

  • Increase protection of EU citizens and the internal market against security and safety threats;
  • Allow EU Customs authorities to better identify high-risk consignments and intervene at the most appropriate point in supply chain;
  • Support proportionate, targeted customs measures at the external borders in crisis response scenarios;
  • Facilitate cross-border clearance for the legitimate trade;
  • Simplify the exchange of information between Economic Operators (EOs) and EU Customs Authorities.

For more information on the ICS2 programme, refer to the EU Webpage here!

Source: European Union

Brazil launches national AI strategy

Brazil has launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, which aims to balance ethical use of the technology while boosting research and innovation in the sector.

Following a public consultation, which ran from December 2019 to March 2020, the strategy sets out six objectives. These include to: develop ethical principles that guide responsible use of AI; remove barriers to innovation; improve collaboration between government, the private sector and researchers; develop AI skills; promote investment in technologies; and advance Brazilian tech overseas.

Since Canada became the first country to adopt a national AI strategy in 2017, other governments have raced to develop policies that will reap the benefits of AI while curbing its harms. The OECD now tracks over 60 countries’ AI policy frameworks.

Brazil’s strategy notes that the state needs to encourage entrepreneurship in the sector. “In 2019, while the US invested US$224 million in AI startups, and China US$45 million, Brazil invested only $1 million,” it said.

Trust and ethics

Brazil has adopted the OECD’s five principles for responsible AI: inclusive growth, sustainable development and wellbeing; human-centered values and equity; transparency and responsible disclosure; robustness, security and safety; and accountability.

The strategy is organised into nine pillars or axes. The first pillar – “legislation, regulation, and ethical use” – is thematic and ensures that human rights are safeguarded and that strong regulatory frameworks are established. This includes a commitment to build ethical requirements into tenders for AI-driven solutions.

Another pillar – “qualifications for a digital future” – aims to “prepare current and future generations to cope with the changes and impacts of AI”. The strategy proposes a national digital literacy programme for students, and tech training for teachers, for example.

And a third pillar focuses on how AI can be applied to government for the benefit of citizens, including a commitment to implement AI in at least 12 of Brazil’s federal public services by 2022.

Big opportunities

The strategy is also ambitious about the possible commercial benefits of doubling down on AI.

One pillar of the strategy, for example, aims to identify productive sectors — such as financial services and the law — and applications, where AI would benefit to industry. It proposes fostering links between AI start-ups and SMEs.

And another pillar – “research, development, innovation and entrepreneurship” – points out that Brazil has a good national distribution of AI experts and practitioners, but that they mostly work in academia or the public sector, rather than in private tech firms.

Source: Global Government Forum, article by Josh Lowe, 13 April 2021

Tanzania – TRA uses app in bid to curb counterfeit stamps

The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) in Kilimanjaro Region is now using a mobile phone application to confirm the genuineness of Electronic Tax Stamps (ETS) on spirits that are sold in some bars.

The application provides information on whether the ETS on the drink product was genuine or fake.

This follows a recent request by residents of Kilimanjaro and Arusha, asking the taxman to work with other state agencies to investigate the presence of fake tax stamps in the market.

The TRA  regional manager for Kilimanjaro, Mr Gabriel Mwangosi, said yesterday the fake stamps will soon become a thing of the past because the ‘special devices’ have the capacity to verify the fake and genuine ones. “Some traders are buying these stamps from the streets without knowing if they are genuine or not,” he said.

Adding: “We have found some of them buying ETS stamps, which are not recognised by the TRA system. This is a major reason for us to come up with a tool that can help curb fakes,” he noted.

The taxman is friendly with traders because the two depend on each other, cautioning that those using the fake stamps will face the law.

“We provide them (traders) with education to ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities of paying appropriate taxes and on time in order to avoid unnecessary penalties,” said Mr Mwangosi.

He stressed the ETS are mandatory for all traders, cautioning them to refrain from cheating.

“With these verifying devices, I can assure you (traders) and the resi-dents that no one will use fake stamps,” he noted.

Recently, TRA in Kilimanjaro Region reported to have arrested a man, Mr Kimario, in a deliberate effort to dismantle the network of individuals who engage in the distribution of fake ETS.

“He was arrested at his home. He would pocket Sh10,000 on every 100 fake stamps he sold to manufacturers. At times, he would issue a Sh2,000 discount and sell at Sh8,000. This is sabotage of our economy and revenue collec-tion efforts,” said Mr Mwangosi last Wednesday.

The government announced plans to adopt the ETS system in June 2018 and the first phase was conducted on January 15, 2019 whereby stamps were installed on 19 companies that produce alcohol, wine and spirits.

ETS seeks to boost transparency in the collection of excise duty, value-added tax (Vat) and corporate tax from manufacturers.

The ETS system enables the government to use modern technology to obtain production data on a timely basis (real time) from manufacturers.

Source: The Citizen (Tanzania), 16 March 2021

ICC and Partners Launch eTradeHub

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in partnership with West Blue Consulting, United Parcel Services (UPS), Trade Law Center (TRALAC) have officially launched the eTradeHubs portal, http://www.etradehubs.com.

The eTradeHubs portal is a one-stop for Trade Tools, Information & Collaboration which aims to reduce the time and cost of doing business by supporting businesses at all levels of maturity – the micro enterprise to the multinational.

Features

The portal which was virtually launched last week Thursday has features such as a multi country Tariff and Trade Information Tool and a Duty Calculator.

A first-time trader or existing trader wishing to import raw materials or export finished goods, can search on the portal.

The Duty Calculator further provides an estimate of the customs duty, tax and levies of the destination region or country to aid in financial and logistical planning.

eTradeHubs also provides a Trade Management Tool. Equipped with accurate trade information, the trader can proceed to transact, by generating trade compliant documentation, manage compliance, workflow and costs – all on the same platform, without the need to visit multiple regulatory agencies, entities, websites and physical offices as done previously.

The portal currently provides country data on Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and the ECOWAS sub region, with more countries and sub regions to be introduced in support of the Digitise 5 million African SMES initiative.

CC, UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) announced a partnership to support women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.

The partners will offer capacity building programmes and tools, including co-developed trade and information portals called “e-Trade Hubs,” advocate for enabling public policy, and create electronic guidelines to help women entrepreneurs scale-up and digitise their businesses.

COVID-19

The Secretary General of ICC, Mr John W.H. Denton AO in his remarks said the economic, social, and health consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic had unequally impacted the lives and livelihoods of women business owners everywhere. 

“We are extremely proud to partner with UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting to level the playing field in Africa and provide women entrepreneurs with the required resources to digitise their businesses. Women-led businesses are the backbone of their local economies – we can’t afford to leave them behind,” he added,

The CEO and Founder of West Blue Consulting,  noted that “The adoption of solutions by women in business and trade, will ensure benefits such as an increased ability for women to work from home whilst raising families; improved global market access, employment opportunities and a shift of women from the informal sector to the formal.

“The portal will provide a 24/7 collaborative space where women traders and entrepreneurs in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and of course their male peers can connect and access timely and up to date information, skills and operational tools, offered by various providers”, she added.

Information

Ms Mintah expressed delight to partner with ICC, UPS and TRALAC to provide the needed skills training, trade information and tools via the eTradeHubs portal http://www.etradehubs.com.

President of UPS, Ms Penny Naas, the International Public Affairs & Sustainability said “Research shows that only 1 out of 5 businesses that exports is led by a woman. At UPS, we’re moving our world forward by helping women-run businesses maximize their participation in trade through public-private partnerships that provide policy recommendations and support with knowledge sharing and building skills”.

 Executive Director of Tralac, Ms Trudi Hartzenberg, said the adoption of digital trade solutions for the AfCFTA would address many border management challenges that disproportionately impact women traders.

Source: GraphicOnline, 11 March 2021