In progress

Modernising licensing for customs clearing agents

Upskilling a profession to facilitate trade


Customs clearing agents are a vital cog in the machine of international trade, handling all the documentation needed to clear goods arriving and leaving the country. If well-trained and professional, these agents can ensure that documentation is error-free, that traders pay the correct fees and that goods keep moving smoothly and efficiently across borders.

In Malawi there is little proper training available for customs clearing agents, meaning the level of service is inconsistent. Goods are often classified incorrectly, fuelling distrust between customs and traders and leading to more physical inspections and delays at the border. These delays are costly for both government and business.

What we are doing

We are working with the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism (MTI), customs clearing agents’ associations, and local and international businesses, to introduce a new licensing framework for agents in Malawi complete with a training curriculum and exam.

The training will be made as accessible as possible to ensure that women, who are usually not able to spend long periods away from home, benefit from this opportunity for professional development. It will include some e-learning elements and a scholarship fund will be available to support agents in getting licensed.

The project is based on learnings from the Alliance’s similar project in neighbouring Zambia. It will bring together customs and business representatives from both countries throughout the two projects to share knowledge and resources and support the harmonisation of trade processes in the region.


The project will ensure that Malawi is equipped with highly qualified, professional clearing agents with the knowledge and skills to do their job well. This will lead to:

  • less errors in classification, origin and valuation, creating a level playing field where competing goods are subject to the same regulations and fees. This will help to make local businesses more internationally competitive;
  • faster clearance and transit of goods, making trade more cost-effective for business. This will help to make Malawi more attractive for investment; and
  • higher levels of compliance with regulations and efficiency gains for customs.

Underpinning all these benefits will be a trusted and constructive working relationship between the government and business.


We will conduct a full evaluation of the project to measure impact in terms of the reduction in time taken for customs processing, the reduction in goods designated for physical inspection and the reduction in errors in classification, origin and valuation. We will also evaluate the capacity of customs and clearing agents to perform their roles and how well they are working together.

Project structure 


Phase 1


Designing new regulations

Phase 2


Developing the exam and training

Phase 3


Rolling-out the new framework


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Eston Sakala

Eston Sakala, Managing Director, Evolution Logistics and Solutions, Lusaka
Eston Sakala set up his own clearing and forwarding business in 2016 helping traders to move their goods in and out of Zambia – a profession he has been in for 17 years. In three short years he has grown his business from scratch to employ 18 staff with a customer base spanning Zambia’s key import and export sectors. “My goal now is to build capacity in my business, embrace technology and deliver my service to the level of a DHL,” says Eston. “I’d love to see the day when I can sit in front of my screen and watch trucks being processed by Evolution in real time, every minute, every hour. I want to be the go-to business for quick and correct clearances.”
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Paulina Abrokwah

Paulina Abrokwah, Freight Forwarder, Accra
Paulina Abrokwah works hard to keep goods moving. As a freight forwarder in Ghana, she helps businesses get the right documents, comply with regulations and transport their goods across the country’s borders. Her role ensures Ghanaian consumers can buy a wide range of products and that Ghanaian businesses can export their wares across the world. Every day she deals with shipments, from cars to electronics, sending to and receiving from as far away as Mexico, China, Brazil and Europe. “The difficulties we face now in clearing the border can make the process very stressful and that can discourage people from trading,” says Paulina.
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Robert Kielbas

Roanoke’s Vice President of Global Development at Roanoke
Roanoke provides international logistics and transport companies with creative insurance, bond and ATA Carnet solutions, helping traders to manage risk and expedite customs clearances as they move goods around the world. It’s a niche area of expertise and Roanoke has been working in it since 1935. “Our ethos is about uncomplicating the complicated – putting the framework in place so that trade is as simple as possible. We know the issues our clients encounter when transporting cargo and the pitfalls in the insurance world. We believe in the benefits of trade and partnering with the Alliance means we can use our expertise to help realise them."
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Alex Perkins

Senior Manager for International Government Affairs at FCA
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) designs, engineers, manufactures and sells vehicles and related parts and services in more than 140 countries. Moving goods across borders is part of its everyday operations. “FCA decided to get involved in the Global Alliance because it provided a unique opportunity to leverage the company’s in-house customs and supply chain management expertise to drive economic growth in developing countries in a way that is also meaningful for our local operations in those countries."
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