KIGALI, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Rwanda has introduced an electronic clearing system that is expected to shorten the time taken for goods to cross its borders, cut costs for businesses and boost regional trade, government officials said on Friday.
Slow movement of goods through borders and ports in the East African Community (EAC), a five-member trade bloc which includes Rwanda, has been cited among the major impediments to doing business in the region.
The Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), which unveiled the system, said it expected it to cut the time traders spend on goods clearance by 56 percent and save traders and businessmen up to $9 million annually on clearance costs.
“This is a ground-breaking scheme to cut the red tape snarling trade and I am confident it will pave the way for similar systems in other EAC countries as well as making Rwanda an even cheaper place to do business,” Ben Kagarama, RRA Commissioner General, said in a statement.
Tiny, landlocked Rwanda constantly punches above its weight in the region, racing ahead of bigger neighbours like Uganda in terms of ease-of-doing business, and going head to head with Kenya in trying to create a world class information, communication and technology (ICT) sector.
In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2012 report, Rwanda was ranked 45 out of 183 countries assessed, up five places from the previous year.
Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA), an organisation aimed at boosting integration in the region, said the $3.3 million scheme called the Rwanda Electronic Single Window was expected to cut the time taken to clear goods at the central African nation by three days.
The group said it would launch similar projects in Burundi and Uganda later this year.
“Not only will this bring Rwanda several steps closer to the ports of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya but will lead to direct savings for business ... and introduce greater transparency and accountability into the whole chain of clearing goods,” Mark Priestley, TMEA Rwanda country director, said.
Using the system, traders will no longer need to physically take documents from one agency to another for processing but can now enter all necessary information online. It will also cut the time spent by trucks at border points by 30 percent.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also helped to develop the system. (Editing by George Obulutsa and Mark Potter)