24 June 2014

East Africa: Single Customs Territory Along the Central Corridor Relief for Traders

The East African Community (EAC) member states will implement the single customs territory along the Central Corridor from the Port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kigali and other regional capitals effective July 1. The move is aimed at facilitating quick clearance of consignments entering the EAC territory through Dar es Salaam.

The implementation of the single customs territory along the Central Corridor follows the success of the same framework along the Northern Corridor, where clearance of goods entering the EAC is carried out at the first port of entry at Mombasa compared to previously when it was done at different border posts along the route.

As it has done for the Northern Corridor, the move will reduce the cost of doing business by removing some the of non-tariff barriers, saving time that would have been spent on clearing of consignments at various custom posts.

Previously, under the transit system (old system), traders using the Central Corridor are struggling under the weight of numerous non-tariff barriers (NTBs), which is affecting their daily business operations. It also limits their competitiveness in the EAC region besides time wastage as they try to meet the prevailing conditions.

This development is huge relief for the business community. However, business people should not sit and relax, but rather use it to grow their different ventures.

Under single customs territory, all five partner states - Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda are regarded as one customs territory. This implies that "there shall be only one customs declaration that will be made in the country where the goods are consigned". This will replace the current system where imports to Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda require multiple customs declarations; first in Tanzania as transit goods and then in Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda as imports. This means traders spend more money and time during the clearing process as two or more customs agents are required to clear the cargo.

The important outcome of the operationalisation of single customs territory along the two corridors is enhanced intra-EAC trade and low expenses for businesses. The EAC, especially Dar port will also become competitive and attract more business, giving Mombasa 'a run for its money'.

The writer is the head of media and customer relations at the Rwanda Revenue Authority

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