Mr. Amos Simintei Wangora, the exiting Chief Executive Officer at KenTrade, who many industry players describe as easygoing, earns a lot of accolades for the role he has played in automating the cargo clearance process, easing trade and inspiring other countries in Africa to emulate Kenya’s success.
He has overseen the implementation of two projects that have revolutionized cargo operations in the country for over a decade and a half now when he was at the helm. He has also received a lot of applause from the industry stakeholders for leading KenTrade in developing tools that have significantly facilitated and eased doing business.
His career started taking shape between 2006 and 2008 when Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) automated cargo operations in a move that many industry players were doubtful would be possible because of the immense documentation and paperwork that was involved in cargo clearance at the Mombasa port.
He was the Project Manager of the Mombasa Port Terminal Operating System at the port, where he oversaw the implementation of the Kilindini Waterfront Automated Terminal Operating System (KWATOS), which has stood the test of time to date.
Kwatos, which is a terminal operating system whose scope was the automation of processes at Container Terminal, Conventional cargo and Marine operations, became a household name in a brief span of time because of the manner in which it caught many doubting players of its success by surprise.
Previously, all paperwork for clearing cargo was done at the Document Processing Center (DPC) at the port, where unscrupulous clearing agents were said to easily fuel corruption by bribing port and other officials to look into other ways, which was made easy through many physical contacts.
“Former President Mwai Kibaki regime introduced Kwatos on 1st July 2008 automating container, conventional, inland container depot- at Nairobi and Kisumu and Marine operations that fully phased out the manual system,” Mr. Wangora told Freight Logistics.
But it is perhaps at KenTrade that Mr. Wangora, who holds a master’s degree from Sweden-based World Maritime University on Maritime Affairs – Port and Shipping, that has left an indelible mark. He also holds an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Geography from Nairobi University.
It was during his tenure when he worked as the General Manager in charge of operations that KenTrade successfully rolled out the Single Window System- Kenya TradeNet System, which went live in 2013 under the dutiful eyes of Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda Presidents who occasioned the launch. This marked his second successful project in just a few years that would improve Kenya’s ranking in the ease of doing business index years later.
In March 2015, he took the mantle as KenTrade’s Chief Executive Officer, in what followed an illustrious career until last Friday, when he left the agency. Looking back at KenTrade’s success, which he attributes to supportive staff and the Ministry of Treasury and National Planning, the mother ministry, he can now breathe a sigh of relief for his success.
“A ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ leader with differentiating talent for identifying and capitalizing on the growth and transformational strategies overlooked by others, propelling change, and driving organizations to achieve higher levels of success. Renowned for bringing people together, instilling shared vision, fostering collaboration, and ‘making things happen,’ is what Wangora describes himself in his impressive CV.
Mr. Wangora played a pivotal role in the development and final approval of a 5-year strategic plan for the 2015 to 2020 period and a 3-year strategic plan for 2020 to 2023, which have guided the agency’s success. He also served as Chair KenTrade Pension scheme, having played a center-stage role in the scheme’s establishment
He also steered KenTrade into achieving triple ISO certifications: ISO 9001:2008, ISO 9001:2015, as well as ISO/IEC 27001:2013. He also led KenTrade to achieve multiple awards, including the best public sector innovation at the African public service awards in June 2018, Business enabler of the year for 2017 at the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry awards, as well as the Most facilitative Customs Taxpayer 2021.
He has maintained an average score of 90% in the Board of Directors’ annual performance appraisal in the past 6 years, a no mean feat.
His success at home has also put him in the continental and global limelight. In May 2018, the General Assembly of the African Alliance for e-Commerce (AAEC), held in Dakar, Senegal, re-elected him as the President of the AAEC General Assembly for another 2-year term. AAEC brings together 18 member countries that seek to promote the Single Window concept in compliance with recommendations of international institutions.
During the 2018 Assembly, the Assembly also re-elected Kenya as the Chair of the AAEC’s Technical Committee for another 2 years. The Assembly noted Kenya has made major strides in the facilitation of trade since implementing the Single Window System in 2013.
“I fill fulfilled that I have left an organisation that has delivered on its core mandate, giving it room to venture into other trade facilitation services. By last year, the System had recorded over 14,000 users, registered with 41 stakeholder organisations, including 38 PGA drawn from both public and private sectors,” Mr. Wangora said
TradeNet System is now fully integrated into the Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS), which replaced the over a decade-old Simba system Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) run. The government collects over US$22.19 million through the system annually, with most Government agencies recording double-digit growth in revenue.
By last year, the agency had implemented all the modules that were envisaged in the Kenya TradeNet System, with the latest being the Risk Management module.
“Alongside KenTrade’s core mandate, my team oversaw the roll-out of other trade facilitation tools that have eased global transactions for Kenyan traders. In 2017, KenTrade launched an Information for Trade in Kenya (InfoTradeKenya) portal,” Mr. Wangora said.
The development of this platform was in response to a gap identified in cargo clearance information among the trading community and the need to merge all the procedures into a single portal accessible to all those involved in International Trade as prescribed by Article 1.2 WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, Mr. Wangora explained.
The portal is an online platform that provides comprehensive, single-point access to up-to-date trade-related information. It provides a step-by-step guide for imports; exports and transit trade procedures to assist traders to make informed choices.
In March 2019, KenTrade introduced the i-ScreenKenya system to the trading community and other stakeholders to enable them to access and search for information regarding their potential trading partners.
Another significant milestone made during his tenure was the launch of the Kenya Maritime Single Window System. This was a joint project with the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) on the implementation of the FAL Convention.
This is a requirement for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports, which came into effect on 8 April 2019. Actors aimed at making cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain more efficient for the over 10 billion tons of goods traded by sea annually across the globe.
What stands out as his major success is lobbying to anchor KenTrade firmly into law following the signing of the National Electronic Single Window System (National Assembly Bill No. 15 of 2021) by the former President of the Republic of Kenya H.E Uhuru Kenyatta on June 21, 2022, two months before his exit.
According to Mr. Wangora, the law makes KenTrade a one-stop customs release centre that will offer electronic trade transactions. Before, traders needed to deal with over eight agencies before the cargo was released for import or export, but the law now merges this under the KenTrade system.
The law empowers KenTrade to operate autonomously and removes sole reliance on the Exchequer’s funding for its operations. The budgetary allocation the agency has been receiving from the Exchequer has not been commensurate to its expanding roles.
The latest project that KenTrade carried out under Wangora’s watch is the Ksh90 million Business Intelligence (BI) Tool. The tool seeks to collect extensive data on Kenya’s import and export trade.
The new BI Tool will analyze and disseminate data in real-time to trade facilitators and government agencies aimed at making better data-driven decisions. The BI tool helps to facilitate ease of trade in Kenya through extraction and analysis of real-time data to help trade facilitators and government agencies make data-driven decisions.
This will support better visibility of Mombasa Port, and the Northern Corridor Community Charter for improved decision-making and efficiency. The system will address the challenge of limitations of report generation features on the TradeNet System.
KenTrade’s new Business Intelligence (BI) Tool released its first import and export report recently, which showed that Kenya’s export earnings for 2021 went up by 17 percent to Sh666.7 billion compared to Sh567.4 billion in 2020 because of the strengthening of the dollar.
Githua Kihara is an editorial consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org