The implementation of the Uganda Electronic Single Window (UESW) system has saved traders about $85,000 (sh308.4m) annually, that was being wasted as a result of submitting the required trade documents manually.
Speaking during the launch of the second phase progress report on the UESW in Kampala last week, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) acting commissioner customs, Abel Kagumire, said the introduction of the system simplified trade procedures and processes, cutting delays caused by human contact, resulting in substantial cost savings.
The UESW is a system that leverages technology to allow traders submit all the required regulatory documents, including permits and customs declarations, to all approving agencies electronically using a single access point.
Previously, agencies were working in silos, requiring traders to move with physical documents from one office to another to get the necessary trade certificates. This caused delays and increased the cost of doing business.
According to Kagumire, the UESW system reduced the clearance time of goods from 21 days to 14 days, before falling further to four days for imports and two days for exports.
“Getting certificates was a big issue, but now all that is done under the single window following the automation of the certificates. So, no more moving up and down going to the different agencies,” Kagumire added.
Figures from Bank of Uganda also show that the value of Uganda’s trade to other East African Community countries rose from $1.4b (sh5.1 trillion) in 2017 to $1.52b (sh5.5 trillion) in 2018, attributed to the ease in clearance of goods through the UESW.
Kagumire also noted that as a result of the UESW, the country has improved its ‘doing business’ ranking in the aspect of trading across borders from 150th to 127th position, currently. Relatedly, he said the country’s ranking in the ‘ease of doing business’ has improved from 161st to 119th position.
Easing cross-border trade The acting country director TMEA Uganda, Damali Ssali, alluded to how the UESW has simplified cross-border trade, facilitating the private sector to trade in an easy, transparent and predictable environment.
“By the time we are done, may be in the next two years, we want Uganda to be more recognized for its compliance with the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement because the single window supports us to do that,” she said.
Ssali also noted that the project has become a benchmark system to other countries seeking to improve trade facilitation.
Ssali, however, expressed concern that while Uganda has improved in doing business indicators in trading across EAC borders, there is need to work on improving the overall ranking.
Ssali implored the ministries of finance, trade and URA to come up with a plan targeting agencies that are low ranking in the World Bank doing business ranking due to inefficiencies emanating from manual process to onboard the onto the single window. This will improve their overall ranking, competitiveness index and the logistics performance index.
Agencies on the system Ministries, departments and agencies on the system include Posta Uganda, Uganda Communications Commission, Interpol Uganda, National Environmental Management Authority and the Atomic Energy Council.
The others are the Cotton Development Organization, Ministry of Water and Environment, Warehouse Receipt Authority, Uganda National Roads Authority, Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Kagumire, however, said the target is to have all the 30 agencies involved in trade facilitation on the system by 2021.
The project is funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) through Trade Mark East Africa to a tune of $9m (sh32.6m). It is a five-year project expected to end in 2020.
Meet Leading International Customs Agencies at GTDW China Trade Development Week to understand more around public-private collaboration on paperless trade and etrade initiatives. GTDW China Trade Development Week, 16-18 June, Shanghai Pudong www.kwglobaltrade.com