Kenya is turning to online clearance of goods to cut by two-thirds the time it takes to move imports through the port of Mombasa and reduce the cost of doing business.
The government will from October 31 deploy an electronic cargo clearance system at the port to replace the manual system, hoping to cut the clearance time from 10 to three days.
The Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade), the body charged with rolling out the virtual one-stop cargo clearing shop, says the system will save the economy Sh21.5 billion ($250) annually from delays, inefficiencies and corruption.
“The system will enhance service at the Mombasa port and increase the competitiveness of the Northern corridor by reducing cargo dwell time at all ports of entry,” said KenTrade chief executive Alex Kabuga.
A study by the World Bank estimates that such delays costs shippers between $10,000 and $12,000 per day in demurrage fees, increasing the cost of doing business which is ultimately passed on to consumers.
The platform will allow traders to lodge import and export trade documents electronically for processing and approval and to pay through digital channels such as bank wire transfer and mobile money.
“It removes the headache of bulky paperwork by automating the entire process and making it transparent where one can monitor progress through an audit trail,” Mr Kabuga said yesterday during an induction for clearing agents and government officials on the Electronic Single Window System.
KenTrade said the online solution will reduce cargo clearance at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to a maximum of 24 hours and cut the cargo dwell time for both transit and intra-regional trade consignments to a maximum of one hour. The Single Window system will be rolled out in phases and is expected to be fully operational by April next year.
In the initial phase, the platform will allow freight agents to seek permits online from seven regulatory agencies including the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA), the Tea Board of Kenya, Pharmacy and Poisons Board, Veterinary Department and the Port Health office.
The digital clearance portal integrates the taxman’s Simba manifest system and the port’s Kilindini Waterfront Operations Systems (Kwatos) platform to enable freight dealers clear goods at the touch of a button.
This is the latest government attempt to reform Kenya’s business regulatory framework to spur trade and attract investors.
In August, President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned a new berth at the port of Mombasa that allows the world’s largest ships to dock at East Africa’s busiest sea sport.
The Sh5.6 billion facility doubled the capacity of the port to 500,000 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) and will help ease congestion by docking bigger ships and reducing turn-around times.