he Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) is fast tracking the enactment of a freight forwarding law in Uganda after a break that was forced by the Covid 19 pandemic that curtailed movement and interaction of people.
The agency, which is spearheading the process also in the other East African countries met representatives from the Ministry of Works and Transport in Kampala to explore ways of having the bill back on legislation track.
“The aim of the meeting was to seek ways on how to join hands in taking this process further and ensue enactment of the proposed self-regulation for freight forwarders bill in Uganda” FEAFFA president Fred Seka said, adding that the meeting also aimed at discussing areas of partnership with the government of Uganda and all other industry stakeholders in the enactment process.
In partnership with the other industry players, a draft bill has already been developed and reviewed by the private sector stakeholders. The stakeholders validated the bill, and the next step was to engage with the government for a possible passage.
According to the law-making process in Uganda, the Ministry of Works and Transport is mandated by law to spearhead the process of establishing a legal regulatory framework for the logistics industry in Uganda.
This process will now involve conducting a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) study that will involve all stakeholders both from the private and public sectors.
It will also involve holding of consultative workshops. It will also involve conducting a stakeholders consultative and validation workshops that will see the draft bill passed to a select committee of parliament for review.
In September this year, Tanzania logisticians also held a stakeholder’s engagement on the proposed draft Tanzanian Customs Agents & Freight Forwarders Bill, 2020.
The aim of the meeting was to review the document further and get more inputs from stakeholders before engaging relevant government agencies. This is the 3rd draft so far. This meeting came after another successful one was held by the steering committee to generate consensus on key aspects of the draft document.
“We are highly optimistic that things will move with speed to have Tanzania catch up with its other regional counterparts,” Seka said.
The initiative on self-regulation is being supported by Trademark East African (TMEA) through the East Africa Community Logistics Skills enhancement program. Under the program, TMEA is supporting the enactment of national laws meant to govern the freight logistics industry in the republics of Uganda, Burundi and United republic of Tanzania.
Kenya and Rwanda have also made remarkable progress on the enactment of the law. Kenya has already concluded stakeholders’ validation meetings with key players in Nairobi and Mombasa who gave a nod to the draft law and is at an advanced stage of receiving views from the remaining few government agencies to have the bill being presented to parliament.
In Rwanda, which piloted the project, the proposed draft is currently being reviewed by the Rwanda governor’s board before it is taken to parliament. Burundi has a draft document, and the country is currently engaging stakeholders.
The journey to professionalize the freight forwarding industry has made remarkable success in recent years. This initiative has been spearheaded by FEAFFA with close collaboration with other regional agencies.
The new law will regulate individual practitioners, firms providing freight forwarding, trainers and training institutions delivering freight forwarding courses.
One of the key proposals in the Bill is the creation of a competent authority in the East Africa Community (EAC) to license customs clearing and freight forwarding practitioners. This law intends to create a competent authority that will regulate practice and conduct, and ensure professionalism of the industry through registration.
Currently, the only competent authority in the East African Community (EAC) to license customs clearing and freight forwarding practitioners are the Customs Departments of the Revenue Authorities in the region.
Although the role of regulating clearing agents is provided for in the East Africa Community Customs Management Act (EACCMA), the role of the Freight Forwarders and custom agents have not been properly defined. The member countries are yet to develop regulations to operationalize the practicing of freight forwarders, exposing the industry to malpractices, corruption, lack of standards and compromised professionalism.
High competition in the market, according to drafters of the bill, leads to unfair pricing and practices which affect the integrity of both the customs and industry practitioners.
Some of the benefits of self-regulation include enhancement of quality service delivery by introducing the professional code of ethics and supplementing government regulations by filling up regulatory gaps.
Others include benefits include elimination of rogue agents through member registration and the creation a database of professional practitioners and protect the cargo owners, consumers of customs clearing and freight forwarding services and the Customs agents and freight forwarders by re-defining the existing liability clause
If properly regulated, the industry will uphold standard through the implementation of standard trading conditions; enhance ties with other regional National Customs authorities for increased trade; conserve government resources spent on dispute resolution by setting up an internal dispute resolution mechanism under the law and lower cost of doing business through overall industry compliance and professionalism.