The Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) led by the First Vice President Edward John Urio paid a courtesy visit to the East African Business Council (EABC) to discuss potential collaborations and advancements within the freight forwarding industry in the EAC.
The delegation highlighted the progress made in the professional development of customs agents and freight forwarders in the region. Over 8,000 customs agents have undergone training dubbed the East Africa Customs Freight Forwarding Practicing Certificate (EACFFPC), a one-year mandatory training program for all customs agents jointly implemented by the EAC Directorate of Customs, the East Africa Revenue Authorities (EARAs), and national associations of the freight forwarding industry affiliated with FEAFFA. The federation has also launched a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program for Customs Agents in the region to keep them abreast with the constant dynamics of the industry.
During the meeting, Urio emphasized FEAFFA’s commitment to extending its support to counterparts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, aiming to facilitate mutual benefits and shared success through various programs.
He further stressed the importance of deeper collaboration between FEAFFA and EABC, particularly in the domestication of the self-regulation bill known as the Model Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders Management Bill 2017. This regional model bill, which was developed by legal experts in the region, will serve as a guiding reference for EAC partner states in enacting national legislation to effectively govern freight forwarding operations.
President Urio highlighted that the proposed model law is a game-changer as it will supplement government regulations by filling regulatory gaps, streamline the logistics sector by enhancing accountability, protect importers and exporters, protect consumers of goods and services, entrench professionalism in the sector and significantly contribute to lowering the cost of doing business in the region. So far, five countries in the EAC have a draft bill that awaits review by parliament.
John Bosco Kalisa, EABC CEO, expressed the necessity for enhanced cooperation between customs agents, Customs Authorities, and businesses. He emphasized that closer collaboration would foster the creation of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms, trade facilitation, and effective resolution of any conflicts.
In addressing logistical challenges, Kalisa underscored the disparity in ship docking time between East African ports and Singapore. With Singapore boasting a remarkable ship time of just 2 days compared to the 15-day duration in East African ports, he challenged the EAC bloc to embrace digitalization, transparency, and accountability for trade facilitation. Such measures will significantly reduce the cost of doing business in the region and enhance logistical performance.
John Mathenge, Managing Director of Viaservice Limited and a Board Member of FEAFFA, shed light on the impact of logistics on the export competitiveness of the EAC bloc, especially within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
He stressed the importance of positioning EAC freight forwarders and shippers to effectively compete with their international counterparts. Mathenge emphasized the need to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the continental market and fully comprehend the intricacies of the AfCFTA Trade in Services Agreement.
The FEAFFA delegation, led by 1st Vice President Edward John Urio, Acting Executive Director Elias Baluku, and a representative from GIZ Kenya, expressed optimism about the potential collaborations and partnerships discussed during the visit. They believe that such engagements are vital for the realization of a more vibrant and competitive freight-forwarding industry in East Africa