Cross border traders can now engage in export and import trade with ease particularly during the hard times of the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to the Rwanda trade portal.
Traders say the portal has significantly reduced time taken to accessing export and import trade information.
The Rwanda Trade Portal (https://rwandatrade.rw/) is an online platform that was launched in March 2018, and is implemented by Rwanda Revenue Authority under the supervision of the National Trade Facilitation Committee.
It provides a comprehensive, single-point access to user-centric information needed to trade in and out of Rwanda: at its core, a database of procedures provides step-by- step guides to imports, exports and transit, including formalities such as licenses, permits and customs clearance.
The portal was developed to fulfill Article 1 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, requiring member states to publish their trade procedures online, displaying them step-by-step, with contact information on enquiry points, fees and access to forms.
The purpose is help traders reduce both financial and time costs that they often incurred while moving to and from various places to seek information related to different trade procedures.
According to Dr. Theoneste Sikubwabo from Uzima Chicken, who has been using the portal since its launch, the benefits are immense.
He emphasized the significant change this portal has had on the company’s trading procedures.
“We started using the Rwanda Trade Portal right after its launch and we are proud of the significant change we have since realized, particularly the increase in revenues simply because we were saved of the unnecessary costs we used to incur while moving to and from places to inquire about some trade information or acquire various certifications which we currently access either on phone or computer from the comfort of our seats, thanks to the portal,” says Theoneste.
Concorde Kananura, a consultant with UNCTAD, who is also among the lead developers of the portal, mentiined other benefits of using the portal.
“In addition to bringing more transparency to trade related information, the Trade Portal empowers government officials, namely members of the National Trade Facilitation Committee, to evaluate the complexity of trade procedures and identify simplification measures,” he said.
So far, 28 trade related procedures have been simplified, making it faster and cheaper to do cross-border trade with Rwanda.
Concorde added that for each procedure, the system shows all the steps the trader will go through, each containing: What you will get, who to see: entity/unit/officer in charge, with contact information, what to bring: requirements (forms and documents), what to pay/costs, how long it takes/duration in the queue, at the counter and in between steps, why it is necessary/legal justification for each step, who to complain to/ recourse procedures in case of complaints, with contact data, as well as the Authority certifying that the step is correctly described, among others.
Currently, there are about 128 procedures, 203 laws and regulations published on the portal with a lot more information including institutional contacts of focal staff to provide online support.
The site also registers up to 4,000 visits a month and the number keeps growing as the team expands the coverage of the Trade Portal to encompass an increasing number of commodities.
The Rwanda Trade Information Portal is connected to the Global Trade Helpdesk, an ITC, UNCTAD, and WTO initiative.
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