Thirteen companies who have been consistently compliant with regional customs laws and other government regulations for at least three years, were last week awarded East African Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) certificates.
AEOs are given out by the Directorate of Customs and Trade according to a set criterion.
The companies are Said Salim Bakhesa and Company, Superstar Forwarders (Tanzania); Haco Industries Limited, Freight in Time Limited (Kenya);
Nice House of Plastics, Unifreight Cargo Handling and Spedag Interfreight Uganda Limited (Uganda).
From Rwanda Intraspeed Limited and Roba General Merchants were recognized while Toyota Burundi SPRL, Brarudi and Sodetra Burundi also received AEOs.
AEO-certified firms should expect first-class treatment, including immediate clearing of their shipments, at any customs post in the EAC region.
They will no longer experience unwarranted delays at border posts and internal checks because their goods would be cleared on spot as they arrive.
Representing the Uganda Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Doris Akol Commissioner Dickson Karteshumbwe said customs control offices in the region were aware of the problems facing transporters and manufacturers in terms of delayed deliveries. This is why a regional initiative was started to implement AEO certification.
He said EAC was one of the model regions demonstrating the AOE Programme can work. The arrangement is aimed at helping East African business become more competitive and strengthen economic integration.
Representing the private sector, John Bosco Rusagara and the Chairman of the Intraspeed Rwanda said, AEOs will break new ground and help EAC shippers save time and money.
Karteshumbwe asked the 13 companies to disseminate information of compliance by reflecting the tangible benefits that will bring the rest on board.
“We recognize the cohesive implementation of integration of customs which have brought it at the forefront,” he said.
Tiagi Kabisi, the Chairman of the steering committee of EAC-World Customs Organisation AEO Project and Director Tanzanian Customs in the TRA said, “We take full commitment to the expectations of our clients promising that we shall deliver. We call upon the companies to fill in entries with no error and we shall do the needful. Haki nayenda na ujibu – meaning perfect work goes with responsibility.”
The Swedish government, WCO is rolling out a 5-year (2014 – 2018) programme to create a customs free area for regional EAC trade. A pilot study showed that goods from Mombasa to Kampala that used to spend 18.5 days in transit now only take 3.5 days.
The Regional Project Manager EAC-WCO Project Waholi Wambuti said the customs process cannot remain static when the globally every sector is changing. “Customs too must change to finance national budgets. EAC is in the process of integrating every sector and customs is in the forefront in the implementation process,” he said
Rusagara said, “With the 24-hour and seven days a week arrangement, bureaucratic procedures will be reduced and there is no need for stopping by customs administration and wasting time waiting in queues. We acknowledge the great benefits to our customers with this certificate.”
‘AEO certified shipments through the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam to inland are made with electronic declaration instead of Comesa Carnet. About $538million will be saved annually through elimination of paperwork and application of appropriate Incoterms,” Rusagara said.