Most major airports have community systems for information exchange between clients and the national customs and other authorities. These systems are a form of a Single Window for Trade.
An airport community system also called a cargo community system, is a neutral and open electronic platform enabling intelligent and secure information exchange between public and private stakeholders to improve the competitive position of airport communities.
A cargo community system handles electronic communications in airports between private transport operators — airlines, agents, freight forwarders, transit sheds and transporters, the private hinterland (pre-and on-carriage, usually by road), importers and exporters, the airport authorities, customs and other government agencies.
The airfreight product mix at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has had negligible improvement with dependency on agro-perishables as the main driver.
With the emergence of e-commerce as a driver in the growth of the airfreight product in more developed economies, this is yet to be largely exploited locally despite the existing potential driven by the exponential growth of the youth demographic and ever-increasing mobile telephony penetration.
The unavailability of easily accessible data from a singular source of truth is at the core of this quagmire. In addition to confusion and frustration, information overload can also negatively impact the decision-making that is required to influence purchase criteria.
Of course, there have been various developments in the automation of airfreight processing activities in the economy. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services, Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) are among the State agencies in the lead in facilitating trade through organised data and information exchange.
The KRA’s Integrated Customs Management System has been a game-changer in trade facilitation as far as clearance processes are concerned.
Other developments include the Kenya Horticulture Integrated Management Information System by the Kenya Flower Council and Fresh Produce Exporters Association. Their objective is to improve market information systems and provide market linkages for both exporters and farmers through a portal.
TradeMark East Africa, which has been funding trade facilitation initiatives in partnership with State agencies such as KenTrade and private sector associations is said to be developing a Trade Link Information Portal.
The portal will facilitate international trade by ensuring the provision of accurate documentation and 100 percent visibility of goods from origin to destination in advance.
Faster cycle and lead times in the clearing and forwarding processes are anticipated, eventually reducing the cost of doing business.
It is clear that data exists but needs collation and appropriate taxonomy in a more user-friendly and authoritative environment. In more developed economies, airports and civil aviation authorities have been developing platforms for data exchanges. Enviable examples are Brussels and Amsterdam airports, which have very robust air cargo community systems.
The JKIA is engaging stakeholders towards the creation of a cargo community system with integration and convergence of all relevant data for trade facilitation through a single portal.
Benchmarking and collaboration with more advanced airport systems will be necessary in the interim. Airports have a pivotal role in enhancing and improving both hard and soft infrastructural environments where businesses can thrive in.
The next level of business transactions that will enable JKIA to compete as a transit and logistics hub for the East and Central African region requires a cargo community system. Global supply and higher value chains require fast-paced logistics environments that can only be enabled by a dynamic cargo community system.
A JKIA cargo community system would improve the business environment and facilitate trade by creating a platform where data is converged and easily accessible to the community.
As a trade facilitation agency, the Kenya Airports Authority plans to deliver a cargo community system by working closely with the JKIA stakeholders to enhance automation and digitising all freight processing activities.
The JKIA is confident about its ability to keep adapting to dynamic markets and stakeholders’ needs to remain a competitive and dominant regional logistics hub.
Jacob Bwana, Ag. General Manager Marketing & Business Development Kenya Airports Authority