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 introduced a new framework for licensing customs clearing agents. The framework includes a training course delivered by qualified trainers, combining practical, hands-on training with e-learning.
After completing the course, existing and prospective agents sit an exam to demonstrate their competence in applying ZRA regulations and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The course and exam are designed to maximise accessibility for all, particularly for women who are often not able to spend long periods of time away from home.
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 studied the barriers to entry for women in the industry, facilitated the collection of gender disaggregated data for the first time, and actively encouraged women in Zambia to become licensed customs clearing agents. We 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.
Designing new regulations
Creating the curriculum and exam
Phasing in the new framework
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