The challenges associated with the transportation of cargo in the East African Community is likely to be a thing of the past soon as a Singaporean entrepreneur, Desmond Tay has introduced a Single Customs Territory platform to facilitate movement of cargo in the region.
According to howwemadeitinafrica.com, every day, hundreds of containers of cargo destined for the landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi enter through the ports in Kenya and Tanzania.
These five nations are all part of the East African Community, which launched the single customs territory in 2013.
It is intended to simplify trade between the member states and slash costs by clearing shipments at their first port of arrival or departure, but inefficient flows of customs information have handicapped its effectiveness.
Up until recently, importing cargo and moving it between member states required traders to submit a slew of documents – including shipping records, invoices, permits and certificates – to the respective customs authorities in each country.
For instance, if a Rwandan importer wanted to bring in a consignment from China through the port of Mombasa in Kenya, and then transported overland via Uganda, it would have to submit paperwork to not only the Rwanda Revenue Authority but also to its counterparts in Uganda and Kenya.
If the importer didn’t have a presence in Uganda and Kenya, it had to pay someone to physically submit the required documents at the offices of the relevant government agencies, a costly and time-consuming process.
Singapore-headquartered trade technology company GUUD, founded by entrepreneur Desmond Tay, has, however, streamlined this whole process through the implementation of a Single Customs Territory platform which integrates customs clearance processes across the five countries.
All the documentation is now shared digitally between the various revenue authorities, ports and border posts. With GUUD’s system, an importer in Rwanda therefore only needs to submit the relevant documents to their local authorities, and it is then shared with the relevant agencies in all the other countries.
“This project helped to cut down a lot of the time previously required for import-export clearance,” explains Tay.