Zambia

In progress

Modernising licensing for customs clearing agents

Professionalising and modernising an industry

Z

Customs clearing agents play an important role in cross-border trade, supporting traders by handling the documentation needed to gain clearance for goods arriving and leaving the country. A well-functioning border relies heavily on their knowledge, professionalism and integrity. Yet Zambia lacks a proper licensing framework and accreditation programme for customs clearing agents – they can currently obtain a licence to operate without demonstrating the skills required to perform the role.

As a result, many agents lack proper knowledge of how to clear goods in compliance with Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) regulations. Some agents lack technical skills such as harmonised system (HS) classification, valuation, and determination of origin. This can lead to errors in documentation which cause mistrust between traders and customs, a high level of physical inspections and ultimately delays at the border. These delays increase the cost of trade for businesses and the government, damaging Zambia’s international competitiveness.

The government, businesses who trade here and customs clearing agents themselves agreed that proper training and regulation of customs clearing agents could help reduce the time and cost of trading with Zambia.

What we are doing

Our project team is comprised of representatives from the ZRA, customs clearing agents associations, training institutions and local and international businesses. Together, we have designed and will introduce a new framework for licensing customs clearing agents. The framework will include a training course delivered by qualified trainers, combining practical, hands-on training with e-learning.

After completing the course, existing and prospective agents will sit an exam to demonstrate their competence in applying ZRA regulations and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The course and exam will be designed to maximise accessibility for all, particularly for women who are often not able to spend long periods of time away from home.

Benefits

Our project will reduce the time and cost of trade in Zambia by reducing customs processing time, physical inspections and errors in classification, origin or valuation.

  • Zambia will be equipped with a fully trained and professional pool of customs clearing agents who are able to facilitate faster clearance and transit of goods across the country’s borders.
  • The government will experience higher levels of compliance and efficiency gains.
  • Zambian businesses will encounter a level playing field where competing goods are subject to proper classification, valuation and origin regulations.

Supporting gender equality and empowering women

We know women’s economic empowerment is important for sustainable development. We will study the barriers to entry for women in the industry, facilitate the collection of gender disaggregated data for the first time, and actively encourage women in Zambia to become licensed customs clearing agents. We will also allocate special scholarship funds to support female applicants participating in the training programme.

Monitoring and evaluation

We will conduct a full impact evaluation of the project to measure not only the reduction in time and cost of trading in Zambia and the number of licensed customs clearing agents, but also the wider developmental impact on the country.

Private sector support

This project has been co-created by the Zambian government and private sector, including customs clearing agents, importers and exporters. We are looking for businesses to help implement the project, getting involved in a wide range of activities, including:

  • public-private dialogues;
  • identifying international best practice;
  • providing technical expertise to implement the new framework; and
  • helping to develop the training.

Project Structure

Phase 1

Achieved

Designing new regulations

Phase 2

In progress

Creating the curriculum and exam

Phase 3

Planned

Phasing in the new framework

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Testimonials

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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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