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Kenya ready for COMESA Electronic Single Window initiative

The Kenyan government has reiterated its support for the regional connectivity and trade facilitation initiatives towards achieving the regional economic integration agenda.

State Department for Trade Principal Secretary (PS) Alfred K’Ombudo said that the initiative to have an Electronic Single Window (ESW) for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a noble idea which should be embraced by all member states.

K’Ombudo, in a speech read on his behalf by ministry’s Deputy Director of external trade Michael Mandu in Nairobi on Monday during the second COMESA Technical Working Group (TWG) on Electronic Single Window (ESW), said that the electronic single window system is one of the key trade and transport facilitation instruments prioritized by most of the Member States to improve ways of doing business environment and to enhance intra-regional trade in line with the provisions of the COMESA Treaty and other international agreements.

“Kenya is implementing an electronic single window which is referred to as the Kenya Trade Net System established as a State Corporation in January 2010. The Principal Objectives of the Ken Trade are to facilitate international trade and implement, operationalize, and manage the Kenya Electronic Single Window System,” said K’Ombudo.

According to the PS, the Kenya Trade Net System, so far has over 20,000 registered system users; 42 Partner Government Agencies (PGAs); over 13 integrations with Partner Government Agencies (PGAs); and Integration with 2 Payment Gateways.

He explained that following the successful implementation of Kenya Trade Net System, significant achievements have been registered which include improved convenience and substantial cost savings, improved connectivity, security of process and procedures where the average number of process steps involved in processing clients applications reduced by almost 50 per cent.

He added that other benefits include increased level of automation of processes and procedures, removal of potential to falsify documents, minimized time required to confirm authenticity of documents and elimination of the need to submit hardcopy permits, clearance time has reduced significantly, improved compliance, improved revenue collection and traceability in which case the Trade Net system has increased compliance and ensures correct revenue yield.

“Majority of Government agencies are recording growth in revenue collection through the support of the system as a result of improved governance, accountability, and transparency through elimination of human interaction between officers in various Government agencies and the private sector through the paperless online applications by traders on a 24/7 basis,” said K’Ombudo.

The PS said that Kenya is also implementing the ongoing national initiatives to implement Maritime Single Window System; and the Information Trade portal known as Infotradekenya (www.infotradekenya.go.ke).

“The outcomes of your deliberations will provide impetus towards reaching COMESA’s stated objectives of promoting deeper regional integration and enhanced economic well-being of its citizens through enhancing customs cooperation and trade facilitation,” said the PS.

COMESA Director of Trade and Customs Dr. Christopher Onyango said that in terms of national implementation status, the assessment reports indicate that 14 Member States are at various levels of implementing their national single window system.

“It is commendable that most of the Member States are investing a significant amount of resources to develop and implement national single window and digital instruments to facilitate international trade,” said Onyango.

He explained that it is highly appreciated that Member States have responded positively to the need for the COMESA regional electronic single window (COMSW) system for interoperability whose expected benefits include faster processing time, cost savings, and reduction of fraud.

 “With a membership of 21 countries, intra-COMESA trade can be such a complex affair involving extensive documentations and coordination amongst multiple agencies stakeholders.  Some of the documentations include customs declarations, applications for import and export permits, sanitary and health certificates, summary data, certificates of origin, invoices, bills of lading, packing lists, and anything else that is required to import and export goods into a specific country,” explained Onyango.

He said that by providing a one-stop platform, the system enables business persons and traders to provide information for various official agencies through one single point of entry to fulfill all import-export, and transit-related regulatory requirements.

“This in turn facilitates faster processing of imports and export procedures, coordination amongst customs and other agencies and streamline workflows thereby generating savings from time wastage, storage and an effective way of addressing congestion at points of entry and exit,” said Onyango.

He said that the Single Window System generates several benefits to cross-border and international trade including enhanced revenue collections by governments arising from higher compliance and improved efficiency in operations. Traders and economic operators experience faster clearance times, more transparent and predictable processes, improved logistics and less congestions.

“On the other hand, agencies, such as customs departments, benefit from improved staff productivity through the upgraded infrastructure, increase in customs revenue, a more structured and controlled working environment, and improved professionalism,” said Onyango.

Onyango said that the initiative supports efforts to deepen regional integration as envisaged by the COMESA Treaty, Protocols, Regulations, and guidelines. It also contributes to ongoing efforts of implementing commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO), Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and other international conventions.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a

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