he Freight Forwarding fraternity, the East African Community (EAC) Directorate of Customs, and the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) recently launched an eLearning portal to provide flexible, accessible, and affordable training to the Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders in East Africa.
The eLearning portal was developed by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), under the EAC Logistics Sector Skills Enhancement Program. This initiative was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands through TradeMark Africa (TMA).
Mr. Sam Kabera, the assistant commissioner for Customs Services at RRA, officiated the launch. The launch coincided with the 7th graduation ceremony for the East Africa Customs Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate Course (EACFFPC) students in Kigali, Rwanda. The 7th graduation had a total of 320 graduates. 284 of the graduates were from the 18th intake in Kigali and the remaining 36 were from the 1st intake in Rubavu.
The Kingdom of Netherlands was represented by Mr. Kevin Ngei, Policy Officer Private Sector Development, in Rwanda, while TMA was represented by Mr. David Butera, the Programme Manager, Rwanda. FEAFFA and Rwanda Freight Forwarders Associations (RWAFFA) were represented by the President, Mr. Philippe Ndikumana, and Mr. David Rwigema respectively.
In his remarks at the launch, Mr. Kabera underscored the East Africa Revenue Authorities’ recognition of the significance of capacity-building in the clearing and forwarding sector to regional trade competitiveness.
“The strategic focus on capacity building, specifically through the EACFFPC training, is to enhance operational efficiency, promote compliance, and propel the use of technology as a tool for regional trade competitiveness,” said Mr. Kabera and added that RRA’s commitment to empowering trade professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive on the dynamic and highly competitive regional, continental, and international stage was crucial.
Mr. Ngei thanked TMA, FEAFFA, and other industry players at large for their strong collaboration geared toward facilitating trade in the East African region.
“The Kingdom of Netherlands recognizes the need for development partners to work together and support the overall growth and development of the East African region through trade. We will continue to engage with governments and the private sector in supporting the realization of this course.”
Mr. Butera, on the other hand, emphasized the role of capacity building in reducing trade inefficiencies caused by inefficient and poor-quality logistics service that negatively impact the cost and time taken to move goods across EAC borders.
“TMA is keen and committed to partnering with private sector players and government in addressing the skills gap within the EAC’s logistics sector, aiming to improve cargo movement efficiency and ultimately reduce the overall cost of doing business in the region,” Butera said.
On his part, the FEAFFA president Mr. Philippe Ndikumana echoed the need for professionalism especially in training and capacity building of Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders in empowering the operators to respond to the needs of the importers and exporters.
“Freight Forwarders are professional service providers who must arm themselves with knowledge and skills for delivery of innovative and competitive logistics services,” he said.
He also urged the EAC, East African Revenue Authorities (EARAs), and other stakeholders to support the full recognition of customs agents and freight forwarders as professionals through the enactment of the self-regulation bills by the EAC’s partner states.
Ms. Blenda thanked the development partners, USAID, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and TMA for their immense contributions towards the logistics skill enhancement program within which the development of the e-learning Portal was done.
“We also thank the East African Revenue Authorities (EARAs) for their unwavering support in the roll-out of this program especially through ownership, and provision of trainers, and accommodated the program in their facilities for some countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, among others,” she added.
Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders play a critical role in the logistics chain facilitating the movement of goods, ensuring compliance with regulations, and promoting seamless trade across borders. They are the engine that drives our regional integration and global connectivity.
Mr. Rwigema thanked RRA for its continued collaboration with the freight forwarding industry in promoting professionalism. He pledged to continue mobilizing Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders to enroll in training opportunities in the logistics sector in Rwanda and the region.
“I appreciate the support RWAFFA is getting from the government through RRA in improving the operating environment for the Clearing Agents and Freight Forwarders, a majority of whom are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs),” he said.
The Ag. Executive Director FEAFFA, Mr. Elias Baluku explained that the e-portal was developed to provide EACFFPC students complimentary access to the program.
Studying through the portal would enable students to access training in a more convenient way given their tight schedules as working schedules as well as provide an opportunity for agents operating away from the major EAC cities to access the mandatory training program,” Baluku said.
A market study conducted by TMA in 2016 found that most agents faced difficulties in accessing the few training opportunities available in the sector. To bridge this gap, FEAFFA partnered with TMA to enhance the FEAFFA Online Resource Centre (FORCE), an online learning portal to support the delivery of the EACFFPC training program in the region.
According to the FEAFFA IT officer, the portal contains the training materials for the updated EACFFPC curriculum, tests, and quizzes as well as a library to make learning more enjoyable.
A blended approach will be implemented. The portal can be accessed via lms.feaffa.com and is ready for use.
EACFFPC training program is a mandatory one-year training program for Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders developed jointly in 2007 by freight forwarders under FEAFFA, East Africa Revenue Authorities, and the EAC Directorate of Customs. The program was designed to build the skills of logistics players in East Africa enabling them to comply with set regulations and understand their liabilities in the customs processes.
The end goal is to realize a reduction in time and cost of trading by reducing the time spent by clearing and forwarding agents in customs declarations and documentation. It is projected that the EACFFPC training will result in a significant reduction of declaration errors or mistakes made by trained customs agents.
The 39th meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance, and Investment (SCTIFI) recognized the EACFFPC program as an EAC program for Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders.