The East African Community (EAC) Committee on Customs has agreed on full implementation of Single Customs Territory system (SCT) effective 31 July, this year, to enable faster clearance of goods and reduce the cost of doing business in the region.
Through this, the respective governments look forward to cutting time and resources used in collecting custom taxes at various borders. The agreement was reached in Dar es Salaam, yesterday, by respective Commissioner Generals of Revenue Authorities from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
“SCT commenced in 2014 as a pilot project and we believe that we had enough time to examine how it operates and now is the time to roll it out. This is the most important decision we have made after a week-long meeting,” said, Chairperson of the Committee, Dicksons Kateshumbwa.
He further said that implementation of SCT, in pilot areas, has reduced the cost of doing business tremendously in which turnaround time has been reduced from 21 days to between three and five days on average, at Tanzanian entry points to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
In addition, the Chairperson said EAC Secretariat in collaboration with Trade and Markets East Africa and other partner states, particularly Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), were looking into the possibility of interfacing the Electronic Cargo System platform with the existing systems along the Northern Corridor.
Presenting resolutions reached during their meeting, Mr Kateshumbwa said, on customs interconnectivity they have taken note of the progress made in the project and will also provide uniform and consistent mechanism of handling cargo and trade facilitation through risk profiling as provided for in the SCT framework.
Mr Kateshumbwa, who also doubles as Uganda Revenue Authority, Commissioner Customs, said due to the changing and dynamic business environment, the EAC has embarked on a comprehensive review of the EAC Common External Tariff to align it to the realities of trade.
“The CET is supposed to be reviewed after every five years, the review process will be completed by next year,” he noted. On operationalisation of one-stop border posts, he said that out of 15 borders earmarked to operate, 12 have been completed, of which 10 are operational, including Taveta/Holili, Kabanga/Kobero, Kagitumba/Mirama hills and Nemba/Gasinye, to mention a few.
To support capacity building for customs administration, Mr Kateshumbwa said that all partner states have already rolled out the EAC Customs post-graduate diploma and certificate programmes which are being implemented by revenue authority training institutes.
He said that the EAC was also exploring the possibility of entering into mutual recognition agreement with the rest of the world, to allow traders enjoy benefits when trading with other regions of the world. However, he said that will depend on refining operationalisation of the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme with the EAC.