Call for Africans to Invest in IT at African Union Customs workshop


Inter-Connectivity of computerized customs systems has been cited as major challenge to most African countries in a bid to provide efficient and effective clearance services, it was revealed on Monday.

"Much has been done in the area of computerization, but a new challenge rests that of interconnectivity," said Jean Francois, the Head of Customs Cooperation Division of the African Union Commission (AUC) in the first African Union Customs Technical workshop held in Dar es Salaam.

He said for a successful economic integration, it is imperative that goods, particularly African goods be able to circulate free of impediments and administrative hassles. This can only be facilitated by adoption of effective and efficient Information Communication Technology (ICT).

Francois said the ICT is a significant tool for implementing, supporting and boosting trade facilitation policies. The Deputy Commissioner of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Placidus Luoga said that some African countries are yet to adopt computerized customs systems and those which are computerized use different systems.

"The diversity of customs clearance software in the African continent poses difficulties for both regional and continental integration processes because it limits the ability of administrations to exchange information and data," he said.

However, he said the interconnected customs systems provide electronic data exchange that will streamline the clearance of goods by providing advance notification and thus avoid duplication of data capturing at border stations.
It will also help decrease transit frauds. Luoga said benefits from computerized customs environment are better realized only if there is an electronically connected trade community and where customs administrations of different countries are interconnected.

He said the effort to exchange information, the use of Revenue Authorities Digital Data Exchange (RADDEX) has been introduced between Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi.

Customs administration in most African countries are key players in revenue collections and according to Mr Luoga, the TRA customs duties contributed about 43 per cent of the total revenue collection in the financial year 2009/10 and there are expectations for same contribution in this fiscal year.