By Wallace Mawire
The World Customs Organization (WCO), under the theme “Borders Divide, Customs Connects,” has dedicated 2012 to the promotion of ICT-driven customs management systems, which include communications, connectivity and enhanced cooperation. Adopting the latest technology will lead to improved transparency, greater efficiency and enhanced security for customs administrations throughout the SADC region, according to the Southern Africa Trade
To this end, the SADC Directors of ICT met in Mauritius from October 9 – 12 to develop a SADC Customs ICT Strategy that would identify, prioritize and harmonize ICT initiatives according to Article 6 of Annex II of the SADC Protocol on Trade. Currently the system is composed of individual country or bilateral initiatives in customs modernization, e-commerce and e-customs.
The venue was chosen to enable participants to learn from the experiences of the Mauritius Revenue Authority, which has successfully implemented a variety of customs ICT initiatives such as National Single Window, Electronic Certificate of Origin, Cargo Community System, Customs Enforcement Network and the Paperless Environment.
The Trade Hub gave a presentation on Cloud-Based Customs Connectivity at the meeting and sponsored a presentation by MCNet on the successful efforts to bring National Single Window to Mozambique.
As a result of the summit, the Directors of ICT agreed on the terms of a regional ICT Strategy, which will now be submitted to the SADC Sub-Committee on Customs Cooperation (SCCC) for review. It includes cooperation in the following areas:
• Customs Interconnectivity and Data Interchange to enable customs to make decisions in real-time regarding the integrity of trade data.
• National Single Window to enable governments to process submitted information, documents and fees faster and more accurately, speeding up the supply chain.
• National Central Enforcement Network to enable member states to conduct intelligence-led operations and controls as a part of risk management, enhancing security and trade without impeding the free movement of persons, goods and means of transport.
• Electronic Certificate of Origin to allow for electronic submission of the certificate of origin and supporting documents to Customs for endorsement.
• Paperless Customs Clearance to allow the Single Goods Declaration form and attached documents to be submitted online, enabling Customs to facilitate trade, increase transparency, and follow international best practices.
• New e-payment and e-accounting system to allow importers to send a payment instruction message electronically. When received by Customs, duties and taxes would be considered paid and the Bill of Entry would be processed, greatly speeding up the customs declaration process.
Now that a single, cohesive SADC Customs ICT Strategy has been agreed upon by the ICT directors, it can be reviewed by the SCCC in the spring of 2013 for approval. The Trade Hub is working to support the adoption of technology-based trade facilitation tools to help facilitate trade throughout the region.