This month marks a milestone for Namibia’s customs connectivity journey with the implementation of phase one of the rollout of a project that will see the country achieving connectivity with the SA Revenue Service (Sars) in South Africa.
Providing some background to the development, Global Trade Solution’s founder and managing director Louise Wiggett explains that in 2016 the SA Customs Union (Sacu), adopted the IT Connectivity Framework consisting of an IT Connectivity Blueprint, which includes the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) Utility Block for transmitting customs declaration data between member states.
The blueprint defines a common standard to which all Sacu member states must adhere in order to enable the transmission of the data between the member states – and this process is commonly referred to as Customs to Customs connectivity (C2C).
The framework allows interoperability between the various member states and is a major step forward for the region.
Once all the member states had agreed on the connectivity blueprint and legal framework, Eswatini and South Africa championed the journey with the first set of data exchange achieved in 2017 and other member states coming on board thereafter.
Namibia, however, has lagged on this front, but thanks to generous support from the government of the United Kingdom, it now comes on board with both the use of the C2C and the UCR.
The solution that assists with the regional customs connectivity, says Wiggett, is the “ Customs Connect” software developed by GTS.
“Not only does it adhere to the standards embedded in the Sacu IT Connectivity Blueprint, but it also adheres to the Globally Networked Customs toolkit of the WCO.
Namibia has chosen to implement the UCR and technical connectivity in phases to ensure that all stakeholders are able to familiarise themselves with the use of the UCR and the Customs Connect solution.
Wiggett believes it will substantially increase the success of the project and allow Namibia to reap the benefits quickly, which in turn will increase the level of data matching.
The first phase includes non-mandatory use of UCR in Namibia and the second is mandatory use for all imports and export transactions with South Africa, alongside the activation of the technical aspects of the project.
Anton Eccles, a solution architect at GTS, who has been working closely with Namibian Customs & Excise to create connectivity to the Sars system, explains that the UCR is assigned to a consignment of goods and has to be exactly the same on both sides of the border. This is done for tracking purposes throughout the supply chain from origin to destination.
“It is about linking export and import declarations using a common reference. It will enable data exchange between the countries and facilitate trade within the SACU region. Overall, there will be far more visibility in the system, with discrepancies being rooted out more easily”, says Eccles.
“It introduces real risk management capabilities to the supply chain.”
According to the commissioner of Customs & Excise in Namibia, Jacqueline Gawanas, the connectivity will support risk profiling and service at the borders, which will further support the trade facilitation focus of Namibian customs and excise.
Wiggett sees the connectivity project as a big step forward in enabling smart border within the Sacu region.