Efforts to professionalize clearing and forwarding agents in Kenya to improve service delivery and enhance customs revenue collection received a huge boost following the country’s launch of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programme
Kenya now becomes the third country in East Africa after Rwanda and Uganda to roll out the CPD Program, a joint venture of the East Africa Community (EAC) Directorate of Customs, the revenue authorities in the region, and the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), the umbrella body of customs agents in the EAC region.
Implementation of the CPD program is being spearheaded by FEAFFA with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands through TradeMark Africa (TMA).
The need to train customs agents continuously was conceived during a market survey that was conducted in 2019, which identified the gaps in aligning the sector to real labor market needs. The mandatory East Africa Customs and Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate (EACFFPC), which was being offered to practicing clearing agents since 2007 required additional interventions to produce professionals ready to plug in.
The CPD program is meant to bridge the skills gaps and focuses on technical competencies, emerging issues, and the personal development of practitioners to enhance professionalism and compliance with the existing regulations.
This is expected to reduce the time in processing cargo through customs, thus significantly contributing to a reduction in the cost and time of transport and logistics in Kenya and the East African Community (EAC) region, said Elias Baluku the acting Executive Director of FEAFFA. The launch of the program was presided over by Ms. Nancy Muya, on behalf of the Principal Secretary for the State Department of Industrialization in the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Baluku added that the logistics sector professionals like in other disciplines, need to constantly address the knowledge and skills gaps for them to effectively serve importers and exporters as well as customs administrations. The national association in Kenya with support from FEAFFA has already drafted a bill that awaits the parliamentary process to become a law to regulate the clearing agent’s industry.
“Constant updates through training are key in enabling customs agents to provide quality services,” Baluku said, adding that the revenue authorities should consider making the CPD program part of their administrative requirements when vetting and licensing Clearing, and Forwarding Agents.
According to Ms. Nancy, a lot of synergies are needed between the private sector and the Partner Government Agencies (GPA) involved in logistics to improve efficiency in service delivery.
“We are impressed by KRA’s collaboration with Freight Forwarders through training that is aimed at enhancing professionalism and compliance to enhance competitiveness and revenue collection we are willing to partner with the private sector in this move. ” Ms. Nancy said.
Speaking during the launch, Dr. Fred Mugambi, Commissioner at the Kenya School of Revenue Administration (KESRA) on the other hand said that the CPD program will empower logistics players with skills to innovate logistics solutions, improve customer relations & embrace the use of technology to remain relevant in the highly dynamic & competitive global logistics space.
According to Ms. Anataria Uwamariya, TMA Business Competitiveness Director, the inefficiencies and poor quality of logistics service are a barrier to trade and negatively impact the cost and time of moving goods across the EAC region.
“As partners, we are keen on bridging the skills gap in EAC’s logistics sector through continuous training and capacity building to enhance efficiency in moving cargo thus reducing the cost of doing business,” she said.
The National Chairperson of the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA), Mr. Roy Mwanthi, appreciated the support the industry is getting from the government in improving the logistics sector operating environment, especially for the Clearing Agents and Freight Forwarders, a majority of whom are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). He urged KIFWA members to take advantage of the opportunities that the CPD program presents.
“As KIFWA, we are going to mobilize our members to participate in the CPD program as we prepare the industry for the enactment of the Kenya Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders Management Bill.” Mr. Roy said.
An Integrated CPD management system aimed at managing the implementation of the program in the region has been developed. The system supports registration and award of CPD points to all participants of the program. It also documents compliance with the requirements of the CPD program by generating registration and compliance credentials for individual practitioners.
Rwanda and Uganda rolled out the CPD program in 2022 with many agents benefitting.
In 2021, the 39th meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance, and Investment (SCTIFI) directed the EAC Partner States to work with Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders in their respective countries to develop and implement CPD programs for customs agents and freight forwarders in their partner states. FEAFFA, KIFWA, and KRA through the Kenya School of Revenue Administration (KESRA) have since been working on this directive to provide room for professional growth in the freight logistics sector.
Under the program, practitioners are expected to have a minimum number of CPD points per year, which will form part of the requirements for the renewal of their membership and agency licenses.
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