Kenya – Single Window costs to impact on traders

Importers and exporters will have to pay to use the Single Window System, Kenya Trade Network Agency(KenTrade) has said.

The agency dismissed concerns that it will increase the cost of doing business.

This comes as it moves to upgrade its system which provides the sole trading platform for lodging entries and accessing trade approvals, mainly by government agencies.

Companies will now have to pay Sh5,000 [ZAR722] annually as registration to the Single Window System. Application for Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) number in the system costs Sh750 [ZAR108] per UCR.

Arrival notification for any the impending arrival notice of a consignment will cost Sh7,500 [ZAR1,080] per ship. 

The charges have been approved by the National Treasury and Planning, following a legal notice issued on December 24 which became effective this month.

This is to support the cash-strapped government agency’s operations after Treasury cut its budget by more than a half.

KenTrade CEO Amos Wangora said the  charge are informed by low funding by the exchequer,which is threatening sustainability of the Single Window Services.

“The agency has over the years relied on the exchequer for funding to run its operations as well as maintain the system, this funding has not been sufficient and has been declining over the years,” Wangora said.

The Single Window System was rolled out in 2013, providing a single platform to process import and export cargo documentation.

It currently serves 12,000 users and processes close to 800,000 transactions annually.

The system brings together 35 permits, licenses and certificates from various government issuing agencies whose cargo clearance documentations have been interfaced with the  KenTrade system.

It is also linked to financial institutions (banks, mobile payment solutions) through Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) iTax System and the governments eCitizen platforms.

Source: article published in The Star, Kenya, 24 January 2020

Kenya Single Window Agency accuses KRA of Sabotage

KentradeThe Kenya Trade Network Agency, operator of the National Electronic Single Window System, has refuted claims by some clearing agents that the platform is lapsing. KenTrade has instead blamed slow integration of its system on the continued parallel use of the Kenya Revenue Authority’s systems – the Orbus and Simba. Currently, importers are using both systems to process documents such as import permits.

Project director Amos Wangora said there is need to retire Orbus system for agents to embrace the Single Window System, particularly in filing Import Declaration Forms. Kentrade accused KRA officials of avoiding the Single Window System.

“We don’t have any problem in the use of the Single Window System. It’s only people who don’t want to embrace the new system. Those using it are doing good only for some KRA officials who still want to use the Orbus system,” said Wangora in an interview on Friday.

KenTrade is the state agency tasked with facilitating cross-border trade through the Single Window System.

Wangora said only three modules remain for the Single Window System to be completed fully – include on declaration submission, bonds and exemption. Testing of the declaration submission module is on and is expected to be completed by 20 January 2015.

A section of clearing agents had raised concerns over delays in cargo clearance at the port of Mombasa under the Single Window System. Yesterday, the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, Mombasa chapter, said KRA officials prefer their own system, which “lacks transparency”.

A clearing agent told the Star that one has to personally push for services, which involves handouts, under the KRA system. Kentrade has since written to KRA commissioner-general to halt the Orbus system on January 31.

The Single Window System integrates about 24 government agencies’ functions, offering a one-stop shop for processing import and export permit documents.  More than 6,000 imports and exports permits were issued under the new system last year, including permits from Kenya Bureau of Standards and Ministry of Health’s veterinary and pharmaceutical departments.

About 1,200 clearing agents, shipping agents, consolidators and partner government agencies will be trained on the remaining modules. Kentrade targets to have the system fully embraced by all stakeholders by July, with the country set to go paperless by 2015. Source: The Star (Kenya)

Non-Tariff Barriers – SADC Secretariat requested to intervene in Mozambique

0b8a0ce6140c04b4f629a97cb5e8d8f34e69d4a1The SADC, COMESA and EAC Tripartite alliance has been urged by various Zimbabwean, Zambian and Malawian exporters to salvage a potential crippling situation occurring at Mozambique borders. This follows the recent implementation of a new transit bond guarantee system which in conjunction with the Single Window system is allegedly causing significant delays, including loss of business and spiralling demurrage for transit goods emanating from these landlocked countries, en route for export from various Mozambique ports, Beira in particular.

Complaint no. NTB-000-578 in terms of ‘Lengthy and costly customs clearance procedures’ was lodged and can be viewed in full on the Tripartite’s NTB portal. Amongst the various problems sited, the complainants request the following of Mozambique –

  • Mozambique Ministry of Finance is requested to get customs to consider a parallel system to run with the electronic single window programme to clear the backlog in Beira port now and also consider providing release against Report orders to reduce further downtime in port . This will be a stop-gap measure until the customs staff are well versed , fully trained and that the new system can work well.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements with Cornelder to consider waiving storage for this special situation or at least offer 75% credit on the bills due which I must say are now astronomical based on the days the cargo has stayed in port both imports and exports.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements with shipping lines to consider waiving completely the demurrage due on the empty containers or at least give say 15-21 more days grace period before demurrage starts accruing.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements that Mozambique customs get technical assistance to assist roll this new programme out without causing huge catastrophes like this.

Mozambique has acknowledged the complaint and expressed regret over the developments. Mozambique reported that the issue was receiving urgent attention and they would provide feed back shortly.

Nigerian Customs to host Single Window Feasibility Conference

Single-Window-SystemThe Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has concluded plans to hold a conference on Single Window feasibility study findings where the national single window roadmap, implementation plan and key recommendations will be analysed.

The conference will occur in Lagos from 11 to 12 December, 2012, during which organisational, financial and cost benefit analysis for the proposed single window solution will also be analysed. The conference will address issues in areas such as business process, data harmonisation, ICT readiness of stakeholders, legislation, stakeholder relations and change management.

Feedback from all stakeholders is also expected to be collected and validated at the forum for the conclusion of the feasibility study. Furthermore, the conference is designed for policy makers, government officials, business managers, analysts, service providers, representatives of international agencies working in the field of trade facilitation, members of the academia as well as experts in trade and e-business. Source: Leadership (Abuja)

Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide

UNECE-Trade Facilitation Implementation GuideHaving spent the better part of the last fortnight amongst customs authorities and implementors of Single Window, I’m compelled to share with you a site (if you have not already been there) which attempts in a simple but comprehensive way to articulate the concept and principles of Trade Facilitation and its relationship and connotation with Single Window. The UNECE Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide should come as a welcomed resource, if not a companion, to trade facilitation practitioners and more specifically Customs Authorities wishing to embark on a trade facilitation approach. Of course it is a very useful reference for the many avid scholars on customs and trade matters across the global village. Of particular interest are the case studies – two of which feature African countries (Mozambique and Senegal) – providing a welcomed introduction of trade facilitation and Single Window on our continent. It is good to note that Single Window has less to do with technology and more to do with inter-governmental and trade relationships and an understanding of how these are meant to co-exist and support one another  – Enjoy!

Trade facilitation is emerging as an important factor for international trade and the economic development of countries. This is due to its impact on competitiveness and market integration and its increasing importance in attracting direct foreign investments. Over the last decade, it has gained prominence in the international political agenda as part of the ongoing WTO multilateral trade negotiations as well as of wide international technical assistance programs for developing and transition economies.

The primary goal of trade facilitation is to help make trade across borders faster and cheaper, whilst ensuring its safety and security. In terms of focus, it is about formalities, procedures, and the related exchange of information and documents between the various partners in the supply chain. For UNECE and its UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), trade facilitation is “the simplification, standardization and harmonization of procedures and associated information flows required to move goods from seller to buyer and to make payment”. Such a definition implies that not only the physical movement of goods is important in a supply chain, but also the associated information flows. It also encompasses all governmental agencies that intervene in the transit of goods, and the various commercial entities that conduct business and move the goods. This is in line with discussions on trade facilitation currently ongoing at the WTO. Source: UNECE

Nigeria – Single Window initiative back on track

After much controversy centering on allegations of corruption and impropriety, the Federal Government terminated the contract awarded to Single Window Systems and Technology Limited. The contract which allowed for a sole submission point for importers and exporters to lodge their documentation was unilaterally awarded by the Federal Ministry of Finance, under the Umaru Yar Adua administration, on behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service to the company registered in June 2010 with N 1m share capital.

The contract was reported to be worth N 4.5 trillion. The decision to discontinue the contract was based on an investigation by the Ministry of Finance which looked into the processes and the terms of the contract. The investigation which was approved by the President revealed that the contract breached the provisions of both the Procurement Act and the ICRC Act. Nigerian Customs received a letter of notification from the supervisory of the ministry of finance that a concession agreement had been entered between the Federal government and the Single Window System Technologies Limited, so where did the customs come into play before the contract was signed?”

Nigeria Customs Service had earlier said on the controversy, “How can a company enter such an agreement without the knowledge of the Nigeria Customs Service?” The Customs was not involved in the execution of the agreement entered by the Federal Ministry of Finance through the Former Honourable Minister of Finance; Olusegun Aganga. Therefore Nigerian Customs was not carried along by the company called Single Window System Technologies Limited. The tender was scuppered.

Recently, the Nigerian Customs Service convened a Single Window National Stakeholder Conference under the slogan – “Collaboration -Towards a Facilitated Trade Environment”. The conference and workshop took place between 23 and 26 April 2012, and was attended by several local and international delegates representing UNECE, UN/CEFACT, and donor companies German Development Company (GIZ), USAID and Crown Agents. Details concerning the launch of this event can be accessed via the following links – Conference Website and Conference Summary Report.

Comment: So what started on shaky ground has finally materialised into a fully-fledged Customs-led programme – the way it should be, and hopefully remain. Moreover, trade representatives and intermediaries will need to be an integral part of this development for it to attain success.

Source: Business News Nigeria and Valentina Mintah (Trade Facilitation Consultant).

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Namibia buys into ‘Single Window’ concept

From April 12-13, Southern African Trade Hub (aka USAID) presented Single Window as a cutting-edge tool for trade facilitation to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Finance, Customs and other private sector organizations, explaining how a NSW for Namibia could improve the Trading Across Borders index ranking, which currently stands at 142 out of 183 countries. Single Window is a crucial instrument that will eliminate inefficiency and ineffectiveness in business and government procedures and document requirements along the international supply chain, reduce trade transaction costs, as well as improve border control, compliance, and security.

Benefits for Government: A Single Window will lead to a better combination of existing governmental systems and processes, while at the same time promoting a more open and facilitative approach to the way in which governments operate and communicate with business. Traders will submit all the required information and documents through a single entity, more effective systems will be established for a quicker and more accurate validation and distribution of this information to all relevant government agencies. This will also result in better coordination and cooperation between the Government and regulatory authorities involved in trade-related activities.

Benefits for trade: The main benefit for the trading community is that a Single Window will provide the trader with a single point for the one-time submission of all required information and documentation to all governmental agencies involved in export, import or transit procedures. As the Single Window enables governments to process submitted information, documents and fees both faster and more accurately, traders would benefit from faster clearance and release times, enabling them to speed up the supply chain. In addition, the improved transparency and increased predictability would further reduce the potential for corrupt behaviour from both the public and private sector.

If the Single Window functions as a focal point for the access to updated information on current trade rules, regulations and compliance requirements, it will lower the administrative costs of trade transactions and encourage greater trader compliance. The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Industry and Trade underscored the need for Namibia to proceed with the Single Window concept, and advised participants that his Ministry, together with the Ministry of Finance, would jointly package the Single Window concept and submit it to Cabinet for Government approval.

In Southern Africa, Mauritius already has an effective Single Window, which is reflected in its “Trading Across Borders” ranking of 21. Mozambique recently launched its pilot Single Window. SATH will support and facilitate the processes for the establishment of a Botswana National Single Window system to streamline cross border trade. The current SATH Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) Cloud Computing Connectivity program, which is being piloted between Botswana and Namibia, provides an ideal technology platform for linking Botswana and Namibia Single Windows, leveraging the investment by BURS, Namibia Customs and SATH to date in the development of this system. SATH is currently in the process of gauging support for National Single Window in South Africa.

Excuse my cynicism, but the SA Trade HUB  has yet to demonstrate the viability of its Cloud Computing solution between Namibia and Botswana Customs. What is reported above is the usual sweet and fluffy adjectives which accompany most international customs and trade ICT offerings, ignoring prerequisite building blocks upon which concepts such as Cloud and Single Window may prove beneficial and effective. Past project failures in Africa are usually blamed on the target country in not bedding down or embracing the new process/solution – never the vendor. Given the frequency of technology offerings being presented by donor agencies on unwitting national states, there seems little foreign interest in ‘bedding down’ or ‘knowledge transfer’ than the ‘delivery of expensive technology’.

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