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ETHIOPIA: New Online Customs Service to Slash Import/Export Bureaucracy

Ethiopian government has launched the Ethiopia Electronic Single Window (ESW), an electronic platform intended to speed the import and export customs process dramatically.

Following the launch on 4 January 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted that: “The Ethiopia ESW Service will enhance the cost effectiveness and efficiency of trade logistics landscape in Ethiopia.” The government claims that the new online portal will cut the time needed to process import and exports from the current 44 days to only 15. Over time, this should reduce further to only three days.

The claimed time savings are to be achieved by allowing traders to submit all import/export-related documents in a batch online, thus removing the need for documents – including numerous duplicates – to be submitted in hard copy to multiple government departments. The appointment of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority as the lead cross-border regulatory agency (CBRA), provides a single, coordinating point of contact for traders in their applications, should also streamline the process.

Initially, 16 trading companies, both private and state-owned, will use the new platform to build up a data bank. Adanech Abebe, Ethiopian Minister of Revenue and Customs, said that the preparation of the procedures and regulations needed to govern the system are already under way.

The ESW system has three main sections. The first is a portal which traders can submit customs and border clearance documents, view processing procedures and useful information, and pay the required taxes and fees electronically. Second, a cross-border regulatory agency (CBRA) portal provides a single point of contact for all government authorities involved in processing the verification, inspection and approval of the documents received through the trader portal. Third is a messaging gateway system handling electronic document exchange between the trader portal and CBRA portal, giving customs declaration and tariff information, and bank and electronic payment history, as well as linking the internal/external system data with CBRA.

The ESW platform launch follows a number of initiatives by the Ethiopian administration to improve the country’s trading environment. Memoranda of understandings were signed between the government and the Alibaba Group on 25 November 2019 for the creation of an Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) to promote trade, particularly for the SME sector. The government has also been actively attracting foreign investors and international players into the country’s logistics sector, and encouraging them to buy minority stakes in the state-owned Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprises that currently monopolises the industry.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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