The role of Customs has moved from just the primary collection of revenue and taxes to much more advanced and diverse role of facilitating the flow of goods and services across-borders, and ensuring their safety, legitimacy and security.
The expectation, therefore, is that in carrying out these functions, customs and other trade-related agencies apply some level of controls to ensure that the public interest is served while protecting the economy from elicit trade.
DHL’s GoTrade Manager for sub-Saharan Africa, Edna Oduwo, at the 2022 annual tralac conference, advised government agencies relevant to trade and customs in particular, that it is now imperative for the international trade eco-system to learn how to maintain the delegate balance of facilitating trade, and that of implementing national public policies.
Citing a typical example of the letter of commitment (LOC) in Ghana, which is a web-based export document that facilitates the repatriation of export proceeds to Ghana through the Bank of Ghana, the international trade lawyer said research findings indicate that though such a policy may guarantee the Government of Ghana the needed export proceeds, many exporters consider the policy as a major deterrent and hindrance to export in Ghana.
“So obviously the Bank of Ghana is happy with the document because at the end of the day it ensures that the required revenue is repatriated; but when you speak to the private sector, they will tell you that this document is the most deterrent to exports in Ghana,” she asserted.
Citing another example from Kenya, the sub-Saharan Manager for DHL’s GoTrade programme said: “There is also risk profiling in Kenya; and if you speak to Customs in Kenya, they will tell you that they have access to risk profiling within their systems, but they won’t just use it because they just don’t trust that one will be compliant enough and therefore, they need to verify, which then leads to full intrusive inspections on even low value shipment”.
The international trade lawyer called for African governments to get their legal and regulatory frameworks in a position that facilitate, trade rather than impeding trade; and ensure that in the formulation of trade policies, both the private sector and the public sector are involved.
“Engagement with the private sector should not be an after-thought. We need to bring the private sector to the table together with their counterparts in the public sector, rather than having the public sector discuss policies which are to be implemented by the private sector and later turn around to just inform the private sector. Let get them involved from the onset.”
Edna Oduwo called on inter-agency collaboration regarding trading on the continent of Africa, and further called for most duplicated procedures to be done away with. She also urged African governments to streamline the customs and border procedures through a holistic approach in order to facilitate Intra-Africa trade under the AfCFTA.