A trial computerised system known as Automated System for Customs Data, ASYCUDA, which aims to speed up customs clearance operations and reduce cost to the benefit of both businesspeople and the state, was launched on Monday, October 17, at the Southwest Customs head office in Bota and the SONARA Customs Unit.

The evaluation of goods either for export or import in order to determine the amount of duties by businesspeople, has since 1984 been handled manually following a system known as PAGODE."Most of our clearance procedures have been manual, often subjected to various errors, hence very unreliable," the Director of Customs, Antoine Manga Mesina, said during the launching ceremony of the new system. He added that the old system had become obsolete and could no longer meet up with the technological demands of the time.

"ASYCUDA is directed at reforming the customs clearance process. It aims at speeding up clearance procedures through the introduction of computerisation and simplification of procedures...thus minimising cost to the business community and the Cameroon economy."

Unlike the old system, ASYCUDA is such that all entries during the evaluation of goods go through a networked computerised system from start to finish.The Director said businesspeople would spend less time to have their merchandised assessed through this system. This will go a long way to save cost, increase customs revenue and accelerate the entire economic life of the country.

He, however, said this system was only on trial in six customs units across the country, with two sites in the Southwest.The customs units at the Nsimalen Airport, Youpwe in Douala, Garoua, Ngaoundere and Kouseri in the Far North were named as the other trial units.

The Director said an evaluation of these six trial sites will be done by the end of the year, and any positive results would guarantee the extension of the system to the rest of the customs service across the country.

As to the choice of the Southwest, the Director said the Southwest accounts for six percent of the total national customs revenue, and that SONARA unit alone accounts for 95 percent of the total customs receipts from the Southwest.

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