The Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), through its chairman Everest Kayondo, has asked the government and its development partners to ensure that there is both faster and reliable internet at the border posts as this will guarantee seamless electronic Cargo Clearance.
In an interview at the start of 2018, Mr Kayondo noted that while electronic cargo clearance platforms such as the Uganda Electronic Single Window (UESW) were facilitating trade through reducing both time and money spent in cargo clearance, unreliable internet would undo the progress made so far.
“There is a challenge of internet because some time, internet goes off and once it is off, all this science we are talking about including goods tracking and data capturing will fail. Once there is internet breakdown, there is a total mess,” My Kayondo highlighted, adding;
“At one time loaded trucks were at the border of Malaba and they were stretching to about 20kms. All these couldn’t be cleared because internet was down. So there must be a backup force to ensure that internet does not break down and when it does there is an immediate solution.”
KACITA’s position is further supported by trade stakeholders at the Busia One Stop Border Post (OSBP). Eric Onyango, a Ugandan Customs Agent at the Busia OSBP recently noted that just like any other new system, the Electronic Single Window still has some ‘teething issues’, key on the list being internet connectivity.
“One of the major challenge is connectivity and network instability. It is very hard to convince a trader used to going to customs desk to process documents that there is no network so they can’t be served. The other issue is systems interfaces. Since all these related organizations have been merged in to one window, sometimes you find a challenge that one agency is hanging. This one agency will hold you until when that problem is sorted,” Onyango stated, adding;
“There is also an issue of correspondence. Under this new arrangement, we are not supposed to have eye to eye contact with the traders. But we still have that culture whereby sometimes you can send an email and no one responds to it. You realize that at the end of the day, if you don’t call that person and talk to them, then nothing will proceed.”
The Uganda Electronic Single Window (UESW) is a paperless platform that leverages technology to facilitate private sector trade. The system allows for electronic submission of information, documentations and processing of import, export & transit related trade documents and requests.
In Uganda, the National Electronic Single Window was rolled in November 2016 while in Kenya, KenTrade – National Electronic Single Window System was launched in 2014. In both countries, the single window systems are implemented by the sitting governments, supported by TradeMark East Africa, DANIDA, UNCTAD and other development partners.