Certification programme improves efficiency of East Africa’s clearing and forwarding professionals

Over 4000 clearing and forwarding agents have been trained across East Africa to quickly expand the ever-growing potential for trade within the East African region.

Nairobi, May 16th, 2016:  A recently conducted independent survey by TradeMark Africa (TMA) cites that a total of 4023 out of 4500 freight  forwarders and clearing agents have been trained on improving trade logistics within the East African region.  The USD 2.1M programme funded by TMA and implemented by the East Africa regional freight forwarding governing body (FEAFFA) in conjunction with the East Africa Revenue Authorities (EARA) aimed to meet established skills gap among freight forwarders and clearing agents.

The four year programme implemented between 2011 and September 2014 was based on the premise that freight forwarders and clearing agents lacked necessary skills and capacity in clearing cargo at the border points resulting to an increase in cargo clearance costs and cargo release times in the region.

Results of the program are tangible as a study by Kessler (2012) in Rwanda established that EACFFPC certified clearing agents make eight times fewer errors per year than their untrained counterparts do. Since freight-forwarding companies are fined for errors, the study estimated a US$385 annual saving for companies who employ trained clearing agents.

Where you see trade grow you see prosperity take root. By training the key people in the freight forwarding business, we are helping move goods quicker, save time and money and help the region develop” said Frank Matsaert, Chief Executive Officer of TradeMark Africa (TMA).

The efficient flow of international trade relies on a range of skilled service providers working together effectively, including shipping lines, port terminal operators, customs officials, operators of off-dock container yards, land transport agents, and clearing and forwarding agents.

According to the report, lack of skills and capacity among clearing and freight forwarding agents has been identified as a significant hurdle in trade across the East African region.

In summary, there has been an 84 per cent growth trajectory on the average number of graduates per year under the programme – from 367 in 2011 to 678 in 2014 graduates per year before TMA funding began. TMA funding has helped to realise an additional 311 EACFFPC graduates per year, equal to 1089 additional graduates from June 2011 to end of 2014.

Since 2011, 90 per cent of the targeted freight forwarders and clearing agents have been trained in the five East African countries. Specifically, Kenya recorded the highest number of graduates under the programme with 1665 graduate students while Tanzania recorded 1218 graduates. Uganda and Rwanda had 717 and 299 graduates repectively while Burundi had 164 graduates.

A survey of EACFFPC graduates was conducted in which 100% of respondents said the training provided them with new and/or improved knowledge and skills. 83% of respondents said that the training was ‘regularly useful’ in helping them to do their job better, indicating that the training proved to be highly useful and applicable for those graduates in their day to day operations.

With more than 40% of business costs accruing to transport and logistics, there is increasing appreciation of the importance of the sector in international trade. I am pleased this program has raised the professional standards in the industry with the aim of increasing trade and prosperity in the region,” said the Federation’s Regional Executive Director, John Mathenge.

Janet Wanjiru is a beneficiary of the programme, says, “I am a professional. I now serve the customers. When a customer says “I want to import X”, I can provide all the relevant costs and other information to help them. I understand the system and I am organised. I take pride in my work and I get respect from customers, KRA and my colleagues and friends.”

The program has enabled the customs agent to improve on the declarations they submit to Kenya Revenue Authority which has enhanced the tax compliance levels. This has also reduced the number of offenses committed by the customs agents enabling them to improve on the time taken for the cargo to be cleared through Customs thus facilitating trade in the region,” said Mr. Shehe Mzungu, a trainer working with Kenya Revenue Authority at the Kenya School of Revenue Administration (KESRA).

Our aim is to reduce the time and cost involved in movement of goods across East Africa by raising the professional standards of clearing and forwarding agents since they are the ones mandated to clear cargo by the EAC Customs Management Act,concluded Mr. Matsaert.


TradeMark Africa (TMA) is an aid-for-trade organisation that was established with the aim of growing prosperity in East Africa through increased trade. TradeMark Africa (TMA) operates on a not-for-profit basis and is funded by the development agencies of the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, UK, and USA. TradeMark Africa (TMA) works closely with East African Community (EAC) institutions, national governments, the private sector and civil society organisations.