PUBLISHED ON July 24th, 2014


The reality of the standard gauge railway (SGR) was highlighted when the Prime Minister of China and the President of Kenya put pen to paper in the presence of regional presidents at a State House event.

The Government’s commitment to bringing positive reform in the trade logistics industry is, therefore, not in doubt.

About two weeks prior to the State House signing, another significant event, also attended by regional presidents, occurred, this time at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel where the Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade) launched its flagship project, christened the National Electronic Single Window (e-SWS)

The project’s objective is to reduce cargo clearance time at key trade nodes like the Port of Mombasa, Jomo Kenya International Airport (for air freight) and borders.

This will be achieved by implementing a single platform to process trade-related cargo clearance documentation.

The two events are very closely related in trade logistics, especially in cargo evacuation from the Port of Mombasa into the region, which explains the regional interest in both events. It is also not by coincidence that Kenya hosted both events since we are both the gateway to East Africa and the big brother in the regional economy.

My interest is in the launch of e-SWS, which is the feeder to the second event and should create a synchronised system and provide the much-needed magic to make trade facilitation in the northern corridor more effective.

However, there are some concerns. First, it is important to note that rail wagons can only have cargo loaded for a destination after an order from the Kenya Ports Authority. However, for KPA to issue the order, it must receive clearance from all invested Government agencies.

My worry, and that of many other clearing agents, is that in the event the wagons have to wait longer for cargo to be loaded, the blame for the delay will rest squarely on the agents, who will then be branded corrupt, inefficient and unprofessional.

This would be far from the truth, and the e-SWS should provide the much-needed efficiency to ensure cargo is quickly evacuated from the port into wagons for onward transport.

Unwarranted costs

But did the launch of the single window address the issues of inefficiencies at the port?

My experience, and that of many other agents, is that the launch has changed little as port operations still maintain the status quo. Inefficiencies transferred to the window will produce the same results of long cargo dwell times and higher costs of storage and trade.

As clearing agents, we may have been informed, but I can say without any fear of contradiction that we were never fully involved in the actual formulation of the modules in the window, yet so much will be expected of us in the long run.

Source: Standard Media

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.