wanda Freight Forwarders Association (RWAFFA) has written to the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) seeking help for transmission of the draft bill regulating clearing agents to the Rwanda Law Reform Commission.
This is to expedite the legal process and confirm whether the draft bill conforms to the laws of the country. The draft bill, according to the RWAFFA chairman, shall be submitted to parliament among other required procedures in order for it to become law.
“We strongly hope that you will consider our request and help us expedite the process of self-regulation as it has always been our paramount aim for the betterment of clearing and forwarding industry professionalization in Rwanda,” Bakuru Kagigi wrote in a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Custom Services.
For the past few years, FEAFFA has been working on the enactment of national laws based on the regional model bill. The regional model bill was developed with support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in collaboration with the East African Revenue Authorities (EARAs) and the EAC directorate of Customs.
Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders in East Africa have been operating under one recognized law; the East Africa Community Customs and Management Act of 2004 (EACCMA). EACMA was formulated by the East African Community governments to promote legitimate trade while ensuring that all countries operate within the confines of the laws.
Enacting EACCMA was undoubtedly a significant success and a first leap towards ensuring recognition of freight logistics industry in the region. However, EACMA came with limitations of equal measure.
For instance, EACCMA does not adequately address the major issues touching on individual customs agents and freight forwarders yet this is what is key in professionalizing the sector. Moreover, whenever new developments in the freight logistics industry arise, the process involved in amending EACCMA is tedious and requires more time as compared to an individual country amending its own laws to address various issues affecting the industry.
These challenges prompted an urgent need to develop a regional self-regulation law to address these shortcomings and recognize customs agency and freight forwarding as a professional practice.
Significant progress has been made by the East African Countries in the drafting national self-regulation laws. For instance, Kenya concluded stakeholders’ validation meetings with key players giving a nod to the draft law and is at an advanced stage of receiving views from the remaining government agencies to have the bill presented to parliament for a possible enactment.
TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), under the EAC Logistics sector skills enhancement programme, is currently supporting the enactment of national laws in Burundi, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Burundi has a draft document, and the country is still in the process of engaging stakeholders. The revenue authority in the republic of Burundi (OBR) is coordinating the process.
In Tanzania and Uganda, the draft bills were validated by the industry stakeholders.
According to Fred Seka, the president of FEAFFA, even though the industry has been championing professionalism through several activities such as training, development of the code of conduct and regional accreditation framework, among others, there is need to anchor these initiatives under an act of parliament in each partner state hence the push for self-regulation bill. Currently, these among other challenges are not addressed under the East African Community Customs Management Act (EACCMA).
“Self-regulation is all about regulation of the professionals involved in customs agents and freight forwarders. As we all know, some challenges can’t be solved without having a specific legal framework,” he once said.
The self-regulation laws seek to enhance professionalism in delivery of freight logistics services, enhance compliance to rules and regulations in the practice of Customs clearing and freight forwarding services, protect consumers of Customs clearing and freight forwarding services, protect the Customs agents and freight forwarders, improve the image of the Freight logistics sector in the region, promote growth and development of the CFA sector, enhance ties with other regional National Customs authorities, ensure standardization of the industry and ensure that the industry is acknowledged and recognized by individual governments of East Africa as a profession.