FULL implementation of Single Custom Territory (SCT), aimed at eradicating trade barriers in East Africa, begins on July 1, the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) confirmed.
The SCT initiatives are under the trilateral arrangement including Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda for the central corridor and Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for the northern corridor that was piloted from January this year.
Once implemented, it is expected to eradicate trade barriers by adopting a central model of clearance of goods, whereby taxes and assessments will be done only at the first point of entry and, thus, ensure faster clearing of goods as well as reduction in the cost of doing business.
In his open remarks on behalf of the Commissioner General, the Acting Commissioner for Customs and Excise Duty, Mr Tiagi Masamaki, said in a workshop in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the SCT was a good initiative transforming and making businesses more efficient and profitable.
"With the system, goods will be declared once at the country of destination before reaching the first entry point, thus cutting down operational costs as well as improving significantly the business climate in the region," he told workshop participants.
Key stakeholders in the workshop were the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), TANROADS (weighbridges), Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) and clearing and shipping Agents.
"With the SCT initiative, roadblocks will be eliminated by the adoption of electronic cargo tracking systems, replacing human intervention through automation of procedures that will also impact in stopping corruption," Mr Masamaki added.
Giving testimony on how the SCT northern corridor initiative has worked out, the East African Community (EAC) Director for Customs, Mr Kenneth Bagamuhunda, said positive impact has been recorded since it was rolled out as pilot project in January.
Cargo-clearance volumes have reportedly increased at less time goods clearance due to the SCT. It now takes four days instead of 18 for a truck to move from the Kenyan main port of Mombasa to Kampala. It also takes three days instead of 21 for a truck to move from Mombasa to Kigali, Rwanda.
Recent statistics show that as a result of the implementation of the SCT, northern corridor, Uganda's import volumes has increased by 30 per cent with transport cost lowered by almost 50 per cent. "We want this to happen in the central corridor as it is already operating in the northern corridor,"
TRA Deputy Commissioner for Trade, Dr Patrick Mugoya said. For example, he said there will be a single weighing bridge from Dar es Salaam to Kabanga, Rusumo and Mutukula, an initiative that implies more cargo clearance at the Dar port, more revenues and employment.
He said the customs business systems and processes were currently being interfaced and harmonised for smooth takeoff of the SCT. TRA has a mechanism of tracking down the movement of goods to the country of destination. "At the border there will be minimal controls just to crosscheck the documents and inspecting the seals to ensure they are not tampered," he said.
Piloting of the SCT for Rwanda and Burundi started on May 15, involving S.S. Bakhresa's wheat and Engen's oil consignments. For Kenya, piloting will take off on May 26, to involve all containerised cargo destined to Tanzania through Mombasa Port. Also the intra-regional trade will involve six importers. For Uganda, the piloting will start on June 2, involving Mukwamo Industries (Uganda) Limited. The TRA staff will be deployed to Mombasa Port to assist in the clearance of goods destined to the country but declaration will have already been made right here in Tanzania. Also provisions have been made to accommodate staff from other revenue authorities at the former NASACO Building in Kurasini, Dar es Salaam. SCT is one of the key regional integration priority policy interventions adopted by both the Council and the Summit to consolidate the EAC Customs Union. Revenue authorities in the region will take full responsibility to ensure that the SCT is fully implemented in accordance with the roadmap approved by the Council.