he roll-out of the updated curriculum for the training of customs agents, freight forwarders, and warehousing operators in East Africa is at the last lap following the rollout of the Training of Trainers (ToT) at Manzoni Lodge in Nairobi, Kenya.
TOT brings together the senior trainers of the program from the East African Revenue Authorities (EARAs), National Association of customs clearing and forwarding agents in Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Zanzibar; and the Federation of the East Africa Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), which has been coordinating the program.
Some of the key areas the training focuses on include an overview of the approved certificate program, training techniques, adult learning principles, and their application, an overview of CBC-based curriculum, training delivery methods including online learning among others. The senior trainers will then train other trainers of the program from their respective countries.
The initiative to update the curriculum for customs agents, freight forwarders, and warehousing operators in East Africa is part of the larger EAC Logistics Skills enhancement program supported by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) to enhance the skills and competencies of agents for high-quality end-to-end service provision. Industry players expect that the skills acquired enhance agents’ level of professionalism and hence significantly contribute to the reduction in the cost of doing business across the borders of the EAC partner states.
Before organizing for this TOT, FEAFFA completed the development of the training materials and training guides for the updated EACFFPC curriculum, as directed by the High-Level Policy Meeting of February 2019 in Zanzibar. Roll out of the updated curriculum is expected to start in 2022. In rolling out the updated curriculum, the focus will be on the certificate program. Roll out of the diploma part will come after successful implementation of the certificate program.
The Curriculum Implementation Committee (CIC), a regional body tasked with overseeing this training program, already validated the training materials and trainers’ guides for the updated curriculum. This came after the CIC technical committee reviewed the materials and shared their input.
The need to update the curriculum followed the findings of a market survey conducted by FEAFFA, with support from TMEA, to identify the training needs of the industry aligned to real labor market needs and opportunities in the freight forwarding operating environment. The survey revealed that modern-day customs agencies and freight forwarding operations require the enhancement of their requisite knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are in tune with the changing times.
In 2016, another study conducted by TMEA revealed a lack of capacity building in the transport and logistics sector throughout the EAC region. It also established that there were limited formal training opportunities in warehousing, resulting in warehouse functionaries learning the basics on the job. It was also observed that the few existing logistics capacity building programs are provided in large cities, locking out operators at far-flung regional economic centers and at border posts to access them.
The curriculum has been redesigned to address all the challenges revealed by the two studies and keep practitioners abreast with emerging trends in the industry.
Since 2007, when the EACFFPC training programme was started, over 7000 customs agents and freight forwarders have qualified from the program in the region. The EACFFPC is a six month a mandatory training program to all Customs Agents jointly implemented by the EAC directorate of Customs, the East Africa Revenue Authorities (EARAs) and the national associations of the freight forwarding industry affiliated to the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA). TMEA supported the implementation of this programme between 2011 and 2014 to accelerate attainment of a critical mass of approximately 4500 trained clearing and forwarding agents or at least two trained persons per licensed customs agent and freight forwarding firm in East Africa. The support included updating the curriculum, development of revised training materials and a trainers’ guide, establishment of additional training centers, technical and administrative support to FEAFFA, among others.
The EACFFPC aims at equipping agents with desirable competencies in the discharge of their functions to enhance compliance, professionalism and facilitate trade. The training is offered to individuals already practicing or intending to practice in the clearing and forwarding industry throughout the East African region.
The diploma program will build on the success of the EACFFPC program and expose practitioners to global best practices. Studies have shown that professionalizing the freight forwarding industry will improve service delivery and reduce the cost of doing business in the region, which is high compared to the global index.