- September 30, 2020
- Posted by: Ann Odero
COVID-19 is a humanitarian crisis on a global scale. The virus continues to spread throughout the world, placing health systems and ports under unprecedented stress in the battle to save lives and ensure cargo movement is not interrupted respectively. The human scale of this tragedy is set to worsen as the virus is starting to spread to lower income countries with weaker healthcare systems. Kenya is among nations that may get more impact from the pandemic due to its low per capita income, reliance on imports and foreign loans.
Against this background, there is a clear need to keep trade flowing, both to ensure the supply of essential products and to send a signal of confidence for the global economy. Trade is essential to save both lives and livelihoods.
But keeping trade flowing will for instance requires co-operation and trust….that the market will supply essentials, that countries will not impose export restrictions, and that imports do not pose health risks. The Electronic Single Window System known in Kenya as the Kenya TradeNet System is making all the difference as Covid19 pandemic disrupts the international trade including the global supply chain and trade logistics as we know it. The Kenya TradeNet System managed by the award-winning state agency, Kenya Trade Network Agency(KenTrade), is making the difference.
The Electronic Single Window System in Kenya is key to business continuity in ports and customs now more than ever before when Covid19 threat has by large eliminated human interactions in trade, something that Kenya TradeNet System as a complex and cross cutting online cargo clearance platform is arguably designed for.
COVID-19, being highly contagious disease needs automated systems in place to help in the documentation and cargo clearance at the air or sea ports and land borders. Luckily for Kenya, the all key modules for Kenya TradeNet System were rolled out long before Coronavirus struck. This explains why the international trade processes and procedures in Kenya continues to thrive with less interruptions.
The TradeNet System allows customers to process their import and export documents without the need of visiting offices physically. It is accessed by 42 stakeholders which includes 35 Partner Government Agencies and over 10,000 users. The significance of KenTrade to Kenya’s trade economy is evident in its products and services which traders and stakeholders can enjoy electronically at this era of COVID-19 pandemic. They include:
- Non interrupted Customer support through the contact Centre via call, email, social media and chats
- Secure password reset for the user by self or through the contact Centre admins
- Electronic mapping of documents with other Partner Government Agency systems
- Electronic application for registration of new Single Window system users
- Access to the system through the portal links available on the KenTrade website
- Application of permits from any location
- Processing of the electronic permits by the relevant PGAs from any location
- Submission of Impending Arrival Report (IAR)/Manifest/Baplie/Delivery Orders, Cargo Declaration
- Registration of vessel particulars
- Risk management module for PGAs
- Electronic manifest submission
- Electronic payments linked to Financial Institutions
- Electronic cargo release
- Reports and Statistics
All these electronic services are critical for Kenya to honour their commitments to notify trade-related measures taken in response to COVID-19 to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
According Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standards, there are some practical things that every state can do to keep trade flowing and to increase how trade can support the fight against COVID-19. Key among them includes speeding up border checks for medical products and food and minimizing the need for physical interaction between Customs and other border officials and traders at borders, by digitizing processes to the extent possible. This is exactly what the Kenya TradeNet System has achieved over the past 6years.The Agency has also made available on its information on trade portal(www.infotradekenya.go.ke) a trade safety guide developed in collaboration with partner organizations.
As a game changer, Kenya TradeNet System now provides critical trade statistics which have been previously been sketchy and tedious to obtain. The reports are available for the public and policy makers and have also been highlighted in the local press. The Star Newspaper (17 April 2020) showed that there was a notable decline in the number of permits obtained by Kenyans to process imports.
In spite of the ongoing negative outcome of Covid19 pandemic, there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. The Government is undoubtedly doing the best by implementing measures to help fight the pandemic. The measures include enhanced usage of Kenya TradeNet System and other electronic clearance systems to reduce physical contact hence increasing confidence among the traders to continue with international trade.
The author is Customer Service Assistant and KenTrade’s representative at the One Stop Border Post,Namanga,Kenya