COMESA has invited Zambian freight forwarding companies to participate in piloting the implementation of the single customs bond in the country in order to understand its implication on regional transit trade.
The call was made yesterday by the Secretary General of COMESA Sindiso Ngwenya during a consultative meeting with freight forwarding companies and transport operators in Zambia. The meeting was also attended by representative of the Ministry of Trade and Commerce and the Commissioner General of the Zambia Revenue Authority.
In recent weeks, clearing and forwarding companies in Zambia have lobbied the government against implementing the Regional Customs Transit Guarantee (RCTG) otherwise known as the CARNET on the ground that it will lead to loss of business.
The agents contend that the issuance of customs bond will eliminate the need for clearance of transit cargo at the border points where they derive their livelihood.
The RCTG is a customs transit regime designed to facilitate the movement of goods under customs seals in the COMESA region and to provide the required customs security and guarantee to the transit countries.
In allaying their fears, Mr Ngwenya said the regional bond provided immense business opportunities to the freight forwarding industry to participate more meaningfully in the regional trade.
“At the moment, the clearing and forwarding companies in this country take up only 15percent of transit traffic and transit trade,” Mr Ngwenya said. “With the introduction of the RCTG, you have the opportunity to issue the bond for both export and import cargo to all countries participating in the scheme.”
Regional countries including Tanzania (which is not a Member of COMESA) have already signed into the scheme.
Mr Ngwenya said the Zambian clearing agents stood to benefit through issuance of regional bonds for goods destined for warehousing in the country since the RCTG CARNET declarations will be issued locally and sent to Tanzania to move the cargo.
Zambia is a member of the “Dar Corridor” which includes DR Congo, Malawi and Tanzania which have all agreed to implement a “Single Customs Territory (SCT).
The SCT is aimed at reducing the cost of doing business by eliminating duplication of process. This involves removal of road blocks, weigh bridges, frequent customs inspections and elimination of multiple customs declarations.
The Secretary General assured the stakeholders that COMESA will work with the government of Zambia to see how small scale freight forwards can be facilitated to participate more robustly in regional trade.
This is to ensure that there are no losers in the implementation of the innovative technologies designed to unleash the immense potential in intra-regional trade.
The agents recommended for increased awareness on the RCTG scheme as well as study tours to the transport corridors that had successfully rolled out the system.
In addition, they will engage with the Government to discuss possibility of a phased approach to the implementation of the RCGT to monitor how it will affect their business.
COMESA Member States agreed to introduce RCTG to address the difficulties experienced by transport operators, freight forwarders and clearing agents and at the same time to offer Customs Administrations a secure regional system of control replacing the nationally executed practices and procedures.