Dakar, Friday, June 22, 2018: The rollout of the Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA) tools and full adoption of digital technologies is expected to address many of the bottlenecks that affect regional trade, COMESA Senior Customs Officer Mr. Zerezghi Kidane has said.

Speaking at the 5th African Union Customs Technical Working Group Workshop on Interconnectivity of Computerized Customs Clearance Systems in Dakar, Senegal 19 – 21 June 2018, Mr Kidane said that findings by COMESA from the 2016/2017 Time Release Study confirmed the growing need for interconnectivity of computerized customs clearance systems.

He said:  "This will reduce delays at the borders and complement an ongoing project on the COMESA Regional Support Centre on customs automation which is intended to increase the operational capacity of Customs Administrations."

The objectives of the 5th TWG meeting were to review the implementation plan of the Strategy on Interconnectivity of Computerized Customs Clearance Systems in Africa, mapping of data elements to facilitate information exchange as well as considering the Legal Frameworks to enhance Interconnectivity. 

Findings of a study commissioned by the AU in 2014/2015 indicated that whereas a lot of activities are being undertaken on the continent to computerize customs systems, there is still more to be done to enable inter-connectivity to be achieved.  

Inadequate funds, poor infrastructure, insecurity and mistrust among the different stakeholders were cited as some of the existing challenges. 

In the discussions that ensued, participants expressed the need for the study to address the differences among the computer systems and projects being implemented by the different organizations to advise on the best system that could be adopted. 

It was pointed out that it would be technically difficult to recommend one system against another as use of a particular system was a choice of respective administrations and national governments. 

The COMESA Digital Free Trade Area, incorporates e-trade, e-logistics and e-legislation to minimize physical barriers in its Member States; Electronic Certificate Of Origin; and Authorized Economic Operators (AEO).