Terms of Reference – HS Classification and Tariff Information Tool – Malawi

The Alliance is looking for a firm to develop a HS Classification and Tariff Information Tool for its latest initiative in Malawi

Terms of Reference – HS Classification and Tariff Information Tool – Malawi

Center for International Private Enterprise / Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation

1. Background

The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation is a public-private partnership for trade-led growth, supporting governments in developing and least-developed countries in implementing the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. Alliance projects cut through red tape and end costly delays at borders by bringing together governments and businesses of all sizes as equal partners to deliver targeted trade reforms. The Alliance is led by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the World Economic Forum, in cooperation with Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). It is funded by the governments of the United States (USAID), Canada (Global Affairs Canada), and Germany (BMZ -Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development).

CIPE, on behalf of the Alliance, is implementing a project to empower Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and Women Owned Businesses (WOBs) in Malawi by enhancing their trade capabilities and knowledge. MSMEs and WOBs in Malawi face multiple challenges in accessing global markets chief among them are limited access to finance, lack of market information, inadequate infrastructure, regulatory, and bureaucratic hurdles.

The project is divided into two components:

  • C1: Export training program: The training program aims to bolster the export capabilities of MSMEs, women-owned and women-led businesses in Malawi. The training program will primarily target agricultural businesses, leading export sector, located in Blantyre and Lilongwe. It aims to benefit those businesses that have the potential of exporting to neighboring markets, taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by the AfCFTA.
  • C2: HS Classification and Tariff Information Tool: At the heart of facilitating smoother trade operations, this component introduces a user-centric solution aimed at simplifying the process of HS product classification and accurately determining applicable duties and tariffs based on product origins. This tool is envisioned to be an indispensable resource for traders, streamlining their operations and enhancing compliance with international trade regulations.

Key local stakeholders supporting the project:

  • Malawi Revenue Authority
  • Ministry of Trade and Industry
  • Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute
  • National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises
  • Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association of Malawi
  • Indigenous Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents

In line with Component 2, CIPE is seeking the expertise of a firm to undertake the development of the HS Classification and Tariff Information Tool. This endeavor is crucial for equipping Malawian traders with the necessary tools to navigate the complexities of international trade, fostering growth and sustainability in the global marketplace.

2. Objective

Develop a modern HS Classification and Tariff Information tool to simplify the process to accurately identify HS codes and tariff information for all products. It is anticipated that this tool will be primarily used by traders in Malawi, specially MSMEs which may not have access to specialized customs brokerage services. The tool must be in line with Malawi Customs and Excise Tariff and the different trade agreements that the country has signed.

The developer of the HS tool will also be required to provide:

  • a technical support and intensive maintenance service of 60 calendar days after the date of the Go-Live, and
  • an additional 15-month period of technical support and maintenance of the tool that will start after the intensive maintenance period.
  • a training program to a group of private and public sector users.

3. Scope of Services Requested

The selected company must work together with the Alliance Team and project stakeholders to develop the HS tool. The development and deployment of this tool will involve the following key activities:
Technical Support and Maintenance:

  •  Phase 1: Technical support service and maintenance post-go live. During 60 days after the go-live of the tool, the selected company must provide comprehensive technical support to make any adjustment to the tool at no additional cost to the client.
  • Phase 2: Technical support service and maintenance. During this phase, the selected company will provide the necessary services to ensure the proper functioning of the system. Interested companies must include in their technical proposal the type of maintenance they will offer and a Service Level Agreement detailing the services that are included within this phase, response and resolution times.

Training activities:

The selected company will also be required to:

  • Implement a training program for users based on interactive sessions with representatives from the different stakeholder groups.
  • User manuals or instructional videos summarizing how to use the tool and identifying the main features and benefits.

4. System Functionalities

The System shall meet at least the following functional requirements:

  • Easily identify the HS Code for each product as well as duty and tariff information based on a description of the product.
  • Ability to use artificial intelligence, natural language processing capabilities or similar to guide users through the classification process and help them properly describe the goods.
  • Provide online support for users.
  • Provide duty and tariff information for each HS code based on the origin of the product and the different FTAs that Malawi is a signatory to.
  • Record all the actions carried out by users within the system to facilitate the audit and analysis of activities.
  • Export system usage data in various formats (.cvs, .xls,…) to facilitate their analysis and the creation of reports and statistics.

In our quest to develop a state-of-the-art HS Classification and Tariff Information Tool, we recognize that innovation and forward-thinking are key to exceeding our expectations and truly meeting the needs of Malawi’s trading community. While we have outlined essential system functionalities in Section 4, we understand that there is always room for enhancement and innovation. Therefore, we encourage interested bidders to think beyond the specified requirements and propose additional functionalities that align with the general objectives of this assignment.

5. Technical System Requirements

  • Web-based system, accessible from major browsers and mobile devices including laptops, PCs, and tablets.
  • Adequate security protocols for safe access across devices.
  • Fast loading times in users’ browsers.

6. Estimated Budget

The total estimated budget for this consultancy is USD$85,000 inclusive of all development, installation, maintenance costs, and all other expenses.

7. Profile and Qualification Requirements

  • Firm specialized in the development of IT systems with experience in the development of HS classification solutions.
  • At least two HS classification and tariff information platforms in the last four years.
  • Proven experience in the implementation of technological solutions using scrum or similar development methodologies.
  • Total command of the English language, both written and spoken, by all members of the company’s team.
  • Ability to write technical documents in English.

8. Evaluation Methodology

  • Methodology based on quality (70%) and cost (30%).
  • Only technical proposals that fully comply with the requirements established in the previous section will be evaluated.
  • Level of compliance with the functional and technical requirements set forth in this document.
  • Company experience.
  • Development methodology and work plan. Agile methodologies or similar are recommended.
  • Proposed solution:
    • Functional capacity and features.
    • Ease of deployment and installation.
    • Training methodology.
    • To the extent possible, companies are encouraged to propose technical solutions based on free software or software with perpetual licenses (non-recurring) to minimize maintenance costs and ensure the sustainability of the same.
    • Maintenance costs and extent of the maintenance service.
    • Training methodology.
    • In the case of a custom development solution, the proposal should clearly indicate what will be delivered of the source code of the solution after the end of the technical support and maintenance period.
  • Evaluation of financial proposals:
    • Only proposals that obtain at least 50% of the maximum score in the technical proposal phase will be evaluated.
    • The lowest financial offer will receive the maximum score.
    • The rest of the financial offers will receive their score according to the following formula:
      •  FS = 30% x (LB/BE).
      • Where FS refers to the financial score, LB lowest bid, and BE bid evaluated.
      • Company 1 offers a financial proposal of USD 40,000.
      • Company 2 offers a financial proposal of USD 50,000.
      • Company 3 offers a financial proposal of USD 60,000.
      • In this case, company 1 receives the maximum financial score (30 points). Company 2 receives 24 points, and company 3 would receive 20 points.

9. Duration of Consultancy

The estimated duration of the consultancy is 21 months distributed as follows:

  • Design and implementation phase: 4 months.
  • Intensive maintenance period post-go live: 2 months.
  • Standard maintenance period: 15 months.

10. Application Process

Interested companies will send their technical and financial proposals to: tradejobs@cipe.org before Sunday March 3, 2024 at 5PM EST. The subject of the email should indicate: “Malawi HS Tool – Company Name”.

There will be a pre-proposal conference on February 15 at 9.30am EST to answer any queries or doubts about this consultancy. If you are interested in participating in the pre-proposal conference please email tradejobs@cipe.org and you will be provided with the details.

Shortlisted firms will be invited to participate in a post-proposal conference to present a demo of the tool, and their technical and financial proposals to the evaluation committee.

The Technical Proposal shall contain at least:

  • Section 1: Cover letter expressing interest in this consultancy and indicating the full name of the company, contact details, and main point of contact.
  • Section 2: Profile and experience of the company indicating especially the similar projects that it has developed in the last 4 years.
  • Section 3: Team of specialists proposed by the company for the development of the system detailing their academic training and professional experience.
  • Section 4: Strategy, development methodology and work plan. Companies must also indicate the type of support required (human resources and technological infrastructure if any) by the Malawi Revenue Authority and any other stakeholder for the correct development and installation of the system.
  • Section 5: Description of the proposed solution. This section requires a comprehensive exposition of the features and functionalities in the proposed HS Classification and Tariff Information Tool. Bidders are encouraged to include the following elements to enrich their technical proposal:
    • In-depth Description of Features and Functionalities: Articulate the capabilities of your solution, emphasizing how each feature facilitates the ease of product classification and tariff determination. Highlight any unique attributes that set your solution apart from existing tools.
    • Use Cases and Practical Examples: Provide concrete use cases that demonstrate the real-world application and benefits of your solution. Include examples that reflect a variety of scenarios, including complex product classifications, to showcase the tool’s versatility and depth.
    • Interactive Materials: To the extent possible, incorporate interactive materials such as demo videos, simulations, or clickable prototypes to offer a dynamic representation of how users will interact with the tool. These materials should illustrate the user journey from product query to HS code classification and tariff information retrieval.
    • Explanation of HS Code Identification Process: Delve into the methodologies and technologies behind the tool’s ability to accurately identify the correct HS codes. This could include:
      • Data Training and Machine Learning: Describe the process and datasets used for training the system, emphasizing the incorporation of machine learning algorithms, if applicable.
      • Natural Language Processing (NLP) Capabilities: Explain how NLP is utilized to interpret and process user inputs, particularly in translating product descriptions into precise HS codes.
      • Continuous Learning and Updates: Outline the mechanisms in place for the system to learn from user interactions and updates in HS code regulations, ensuring the tool remains current and accurate.
    • User-Centric Design Considerations: Elaborate on the design principles and user experience strategies employed to ensure the tool is intuitive, accessible, and meets the needs of a diverse user base, including those with limited technical expertise.
  • Section 6: Training plan and proposed materials for private and public sector users.
  • Section 7: Description of the type of maintenance and technical service that will be offered during the 15-month period clearly indicating which type of adjustments are included within the financial offer and which are not included. Likewise, the total list of licenses (if necessary) to operate the system must be included, as well as their estimated cost after maintenance period.

The Financial Proposal shall be made in U.S. dollars and must include:

  • All costs related to the development, installation, and maintenance of the system for 15 months.
  • All travel and transportation expenses if necessary.
  • All taxes and fees payable as appropriate.
  • Bidders are required to indicate the estimated maintenance costs of the solution after the 15-month period.

11. Deliverables

No. Deliverable  Date Details
1 Inception Report: document with the updated work plan and calendar, deliverable dates and key personnel. 10 days2 after signing the contract Electronic document (MS Word & PDF)



2 Monthly Progress Reports indicating the activities performed, challenges, and updated work plan and schedule of deliverables. Monthly Virtual or in-person presentation


Electronic (MS Word & PDF)

3 Prototype of the proposed solution.  The prototype will simulate the key aspects of the proposed solution and will serve as the basis for further development. 2 months after contract signature Virtual or in-person presentation


Electronic (MS Word & PDF)

4 Installation and Go Live of HS Tool:  A  User  Acceptance  Test or similar will be required to formalize the deployment of the tool.


4 months after contract signature Virtual or in-person presentation

User Acceptance Test signed by key stakeholders

5 Training program. Report with the main training activities conducted (either in-person or virtually) with public and private sector representatives, and all training materials produced. 4 months after contract signature Virtual or in-person presentation

Electronic (MS Word & PDF)


6 Monthly maintenance reports indicating improvements made, patches, updates, downtime time, and any other support activity performed. Monthly after go-live. Electronic (MS Word & PDF)



11. Payment Schedule

  • 10% of the total contract amount against the approval of the Inception Report.
  • 20% against the approval of the Prototype.
  • 40% against the Go-Live date for the HS tool.
  • 15% against the implementation of the user training plan.
  • 15% before the beginning of the 15-month maintenance period.