BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
GOVERNMENT says the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) must be prepared to play a crucial role in facilitating the shipment of bigger cargo volumes as regional trade grows under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which came into effect this January.
With 54 African countries under its wings, AfCFTA became the biggest such bloc by number of participating countries.
These economies have agreed to remove barriers to 90% of goods originating from the bloc with an estimated US$3,2 trillion gross domestic product and a market of about 1,2 billion people.
“Zimbabwe has already signed and ratified the AfCFTA and preparations for trade under the same arrangement are at an advanced stage,” Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said in a paper presented on his behalf during a belated International Customs Day event last week.
“Business should, thus, take advantage of the expanded market for both raw materials and exports, with a view to enhance the competitiveness of locally produced goods, thereby contributing to the country’s developmental agenda. Empirical studies already confirm the positive relationship between free trade arrangements and economic growth and development, hence the need for customs to facilitate international trade. Customs should, thus, play a pivotal role in the realisation of the aspirations of the AfCFTA, which seeks among other issues to boost intra-African trade through adoption of efficient customs clearance procedures and processes, as well as facilitating transit of commercial cargo.”
Ncube said it was important that Zimbabwe focused on regional and continental integration initiatives, which are key to promoting economic development.
These initiatives were key in ensuring that all raw materials imported from trading blocs in which Zimbabwe had membership, land duty free.
At the same time, exports into the same destinations become competitive as a result of low tariffs and streamlined customs procedures.
The minister said this would ensure Zimbabwe’s regional integration initiatives under Sadc, Comesa and the newly established AfCFTA bear fruit.
He said for this to be achieved, Zimra’s operations must be seamless, with its officers avoiding corruption.
“Zimra is urged to contribute towards the realisation of the regional integration agenda through streamlining and simplifying customs procedures and processes, modernising and harmonising export and import processes to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the movement of cargo at ports of entry, continuously upgrading of the customs clearance system through dedicating adequate resources for the upgrading of existing ICT infrastructure and strictly enforcing electronic cargo tracking systems, which is key in detecting and reducing incidences of transit fraud, among other initiatives,” said Ncube.
“I also urge clearing agents, freight forwarding and transporters to collaborate with Zimra in fighting corruption at ports of entry, which usually manifests through smuggling, undervaluation or under declaration of imported goods as well as collusion with Zimra officials, clearing agents and transporters among other rent seeking behaviours, which is detrimental to the country’s developmental agenda.”
Zimra acting commissioner general, Rameck Masaire said the authority had decided to use integrated automation and innovative technology to bolster efficiencies.
“The authority has increased online clearance methods. Motor vehicle valuations are now being processed online, while application for Temporary Importation Privileges can be done on email as well. Appeals and applications for rebates are being submitted and responded to online markedly improving our compliance to new normal protocols. Immigrants rebate interviews are now done on skype after required documents have been sent online,” he said.