While the Federal Government of Nigeria has for years been nursing the idea of introducing the electronic single window platform for cargo clearing at the ports, shippers in East African countries and Singapore are reaping the benefits of such a facility.
The single window is a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements.
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda have fully embraced the Electronic Single Window System, according to a report by Trade Mark East Africa. They started with their heads of government coming together to usher in the system in one voice.
The introduction of a single window, which ensures the East African countries align their Customs clearance systems to the new electronic platform, has made cargo clearance faster and more efficient.
It has also created an improved business environment and the introduction of paperless cargo clearance processes.
According to TradeMark East Africa, the system effectively coordinates cargo clearance, facilitates the exchange of data among the East African countries, and supports the tracking of cargo from their check-off point to the destination point.
“The platform has helped to reduce the time it takes to clear goods. For instance, at the central corridor, it now takes three days down from the 18 days while in the northern corridor the dwell time reduced from 21 days to 5 days,” TradeMark East Africa report said.
BusinessDay findings show that the introduction of single window in Kenya started after President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the National Electronic Single Window System Bill, 2021, on June 21.
With the new law, importers and exporters in Kenya have started benefitting from increased competitiveness and reduced cost of doing business from reduced shipment delays and demurrage charges.
According to the law, only the Single Window System shall serve as a single entry point and platform for any person involved in trade and transport to electronically lodge import or export documents.
Single Window System, which has been fully integrated into the Kenya Revenue Authority’s Integrated Customs Management System, also ensures 100 percent paperless compliance used for processing, approval, and facilitating the electronic payment for fees and levies due to the government, on all import or export goods.
Prior to the introduction of a single window, KenTrade, the state agency responsible for trade facilitation across borders, said businesses suffer both direct border-related costs from expenses linked to the submission of documents to relevant authorities, and indirect costs arising from procedural delays and unpredictable regulations.
The new system brought together 42 stakeholders, with over 10,000 registered users including over 35 permits/licenses/certificates government issuing agencies, known as Partner Government Agencies, whose cargo clearance documentation has been automated through system integrations or interfaces with Kenya TradeNet System.
Beyond Africa, the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore launched a new maritime single-window system for port service transactions in October 2019.
The platform, which was developed in phases, combined 16 different forms into one application, which was expected to save time for consignees and ships.
With a single window, users were able to receive approval for ships that arrive and depart from the MPA, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, and the National Environment Agency through a single platform.
In the second phase, the system was improved to enable digital booking for terminal and marine services.