- The East Africa region quest to improve efficiency in cargo clearance has gone a notch higher after the industry stakeholders validated updated curriculum for clearing agents and freight forwarders.
- The new training curriculum was necessitated by the gaps identified in the already mandatory East Africa Customs and Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate (EACFFPC) that the clearing agents are supposed to undertake since 2007.
The East Africa region quest to improve efficiency in cargo clearance has gone a notch higher after the industry stakeholders validated updated curriculum for clearing agents and freight forwarders.
The new training curriculum was necessitated by the gaps identified in the already mandatory East Africa Customs and Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate (EACFFPC) that the clearing agents are supposed to undertake since 2007.
The Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), the umbrella body of regional clearing agents, together with revenue authorities in regional countries, also developed a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) policy framework.
"FEAFFA has already developed the CPD policy framework with the implementation guidelines and tools. The tools will guide the National Curriculum Implementation Committees (NCIC) of national associations of customs agents and freight forwarders in the region in piloting and rolling out the programme in their respective countries," said FEAFFA President Fred Seka.
He added, "Uganda and Rwanda are earmarked for the piloting of the CPD program to find out its success before rolling it out fully in the other countries."
The exercise took place in a meeting held virtually by Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania clearing and forwarding agents.
Trademark East Africa (TMEA) under the East African logistics sector skills enhancement program is supporting this initiative. Since 2007, when the EACFFPC training programme was started, over 6000 customs agents and freight forwarders have qualified from the program in the region.
In 2019, the Freight Forwarding fraternity adopted a new policy framework that now requires firms seeking customs agency and bonded warehouse licence to have at least one manager or Chief Executive Officer or Director to be a holder of the EACFFPC besides meeting the previous requirement of at least two staff dealing directly with customs.
The need to reduce freight logistics related costs in the region through improved knowledge and skills of freight forwarders, clearing agents and warehouse operators prompted review of the policy.
Agents will not only be required to attain the minimum professional certification but will also fulfil CPD requirements as a prerequisite for licensing by revenue authorities.
The ongoing update of the curriculum follows a market survey conducted to identify the training needs of the industry and align them to opportunities in the freight forwarding operating environment, modern day customs agency and freight forwarding operations, according to Mr Seka.
The new training comes at a time the region seeks to improve service delivery among freight logisticians with the development of national bills establishing freight forwarding as a profession.
Under the proposed Kenya Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders Bill, all agents will have to show their understanding of the cargo clearance processes, valuations and classification.
The new law will regulate individual practitioners, firms providing freight forwarding, trainers and institutions delivering freight forwarding courses.
One of the key proposals in the Bill is the creation of a board to license customs clearing and freight forwarding practitioners. Currently, the only competent authority in 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, the role of the Freight Forwarders and custom agents has not been properly defined.
Some 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 are elimination of rogue agents through member registration and the creation of 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.
Development of these laws is in advanced stages in all EAC countries.