Years of trying to professionalise key segments of transport and logistics value chain seems to have finally paid off after Uganda became the first country in East Africa and the fifth in Africa to have an accredited training center that will be churning out well drilled industry professionals into a sector yearning for constant injection of properly trained personnel.
With the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) training in freight forwarding, the industry fraternity would in essence have taken charge of the driving seat in terms of professionalizing a key segment of the value chain or better still a fulcrum upon which the entire economic sector rotates around.
And by so doing, the logistics and freight forwarding services would have been set in the path of professionalization which by definition “is a social process by which any trade or occupation transforms itself into a true profession of the highest integrity and competence.”
Being a member of FIATA, the apex body and umbrella association of all the freight logistics practitioners globally, the Uganda Freight Forwarders Association (UFFA), will oversee the implementation of the training programme in Uganda, that was launched last week in Kampala.
Introduced in 1996, the FIATA Diploma is an internationally recognized competence based vocational training course that will not only enhance the skillset of freight logistics operators but will also make them more competitive in the labour market internationally as Uganda enters the development phase of its oil and gas industry – which is keen on standards.
The logistics and freight forwarding services are one of the 16 components reserved for Ugandans in a bid to boost national content.
Mr Hussein Kiddedde, the Head of the FIATA Diploma Course in Uganda, said the diploma is the most sought after Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program in the freight logistics industry.
“For the last 10 years, over 2500 logistics operators have been trained under the East African Customs & Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate (EACFFPC); a discipline that has enhanced professionalism in the industry and also eased the collection of customs revenue. With the diploma, the operators will only get better at their craft as it’s an upgrade on the EACFFPC,” Kiddedde said.
Whoever successfully completes the diploma training will be competent enough to work in freight logistics anywhere in the world, he added.
For Charles Mwebembezi, the UFFA Chairman, the diploma qualification will not only benefit the individuals that but will also help the companies they work for become more competitive in the global economy.
UFFA was one of the beneficiaries under the skilling and support initiative of the Skills Development Facility (SDF) under the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU). It received a grant to develop an innovative training program, build the capacity of local trainers (through a Training of Trainers scheme that was facilitated by FIATA professionals) and have the curriculum validated by FIATA.
The 26 freight logistics practitioners who successfully completed the TOT scheme will now be the ones to train logistics operators in Uganda and the entire East Africa region, going forward.
Mr Stephen Asiimwe, Executive Director, PSFU said the course aligned with the government of Uganda’s Vision 2040, hence the support from the government through the PSFU.
"This course will promote efficiency and effectiveness in this crucial transport and logistics sector thus boosting its growth. And since logistics impacts the entire economy, even other sectors will be boosted as a result. In turn, this will contribute to economic development through provision of employment opportunities," he said.
Ms Ruth Biyinzika Musoke, Project Head SDF added: “The PSFU is always keen on human capital development. The FIATA diploma is a great milestone for URA which relies on the freight forwarders to do its work efficiently. So working with professionals is a plus for the tax body.”
The 12 months course sees learners taken through 14 modules which encompass the subjects of multi-modal transport, logistics and supply chain management, customs procedures, warehousing distribution and storage, insurance, dangerous goods and security, ICT like application of blockchain technology and legal matters among others.
Mr Abel Kagumire, the Commissioner of Customs, at the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) hailed UFFA for always championing professionalism in the freight logistics industry.
“I would like to commend the leadership of UFFA for consistently being innovative and proactive in matters freight logistics. After the tremendous success of the EACFFPC, I am certain that the FIATA diploma will also do well,” he said.
He added that it was because of this UFFA adherence to professionalism that his customs department was able to exceed its revenue targets.
The URA customs department realized UGX 8.46 trillion shillings in 2021/22, a 103.6% performance or UGX 295 billion in surplus. Of the total collected, UGX 7 trillion (over 70%) was amassed through UFFA members, Kagumire said.
Mr Charles Kareba, a UFFA founder member and also a representative of the logistics industry on the PSFU board noted that the FIATA diploma achievement, was a far cry from the days when the freight logistics industry was always erroneously associated with high levels of incompetence and smuggling.
“We now enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the tax body – as their agents, and they, our principal. Over the years, URA has come to appreciate our role in facilitating trade and easing the collection of customs taxes,” Kareba said, in remarks echoed by Dr. Merian Sebunya, the Chairperson of National Logistics Platform (NLP).
Gerald Ekinu, the Principal Economist, Ministry of Works and Transport also praised the private sector for taking the lead in professionalizing the human resource especially with the government focusing on transport infrastructure development – both key to boosting efficiency in the logistics industry.
Speaking from Ghana via a Zoom link, Prof. David Nutakor, a Senior FIATA Vice President, said the diploma course would help in the faster implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agenda, since it improved international trade.