Wednesday January 10 2018

Electronic single window eases business for traders

An official at Uganda Revenue Authority

An official at Uganda Revenue Authority explains to journalists how the Electronic Single Window system works. COURTESY PHOTO  

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

Traders that have embraced the electronic single window –a system introduced by government to leverage technology to allow them submit all required regulatory documents electronically- are registering reduced turn-around time and cost cuts.
Last year, government started implementing the Uganda Electronic Single Window Project to allow importers and exporters submit regulatory documents including permits, customs declarations and all regulatory documents using a single access point.

In order to make it work, all the relevant government agencies, economic operators and the private sector were required to come on board. By December last year, 16 border intervening agencies had complied.
Some of the agencies which have installed this system include Uganda Revenue Authority (URA); Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperative and Uganda Export Promotions Board (UEPB), among others.

Asked about his experience of using this system, the Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita) chairman Everest Kayondo, said: “We are now taking fewer days to clear our goods. This means our goods reach the shelves on time. Because of this, our customers are accessing their goods earlier and we are able to make more transactions.”
The system has seen traders who used to spend about 11 days to clear their goods now taking about five days. This has decongested the port and reduced on the costs related to overstay of goods.

“Demurrage charges also come with other charges like customs warehouse, the shipping lines charge different and at the end of the day one would spend about $100 per day (Shs364, 000). This system works correspondingly with the single customs territory to help the business community to save on time,” Mr Kayondo shared.
Instead of waiting for the cargo to come and dock at port of Mombasa, you now simply submit using one entry to capture all the related data of all and documents once.

Funding
The Uganda ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, in conjunction with the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), launched the Uganda Electronic Single Window, a paperless system that simplifies submission and processing of trade information for export and imports.
The project which was launched by the ministry of Trade together with URA is worth $5 million – a seed fund from Trademark East Africa and non-cash support from the government.
In an interview with this newspaper, the project coordinator at the ministry of Trade, Mr Francis Kolou, said: “The project has received positive response especially from the private sector that has started recording reduced cost of doing business.”

The system is expected to be rolled out to 28 government and private sector institutions by this year.
Challenges
Mr Kayondo said the challenge of this system is in the cargo tracking system –which is not done right from the port. This has seen traders’ lose consignments along the way.

“We are urging the authorities to work with the police force to respond to the points of alarm and intercept before the goods go far. But all this should start right from the port not mid-way,” he shared.
Because this is technology, sometimes there is no interview yet this helps to facilitate this system.
“Once Internet goes off, all this science we talking about of data capturing and tracking fails. The authorities need to upgrade to avoid such instances with a back-up force so that they continue serving,” he added.

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