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East African Community official: single customs
territory cuts cost of doing business 

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- A senior official with the East African Community (EAC) said on Thursday implementation of the bloc’s single customs territory (SCT) has tremendously reduced the cost of doing business in the region.

Dicksons Kateshumbwa, chairman of the EAC Committee on Customs, said turnaround time has been reduced from 21 days to 3-5 days on average between the entry points to Kampala in Uganda, Kigali in Rwanda, and Bujumbura in Burundi.

The six-member EAC is implementing a number of customs projects, including the SCT, transforming the way of doing business for the benefit of EAC members economies.

“Capacity building and sensitization to support the SCT has been done and is ongoing,” Kateshumbwa told a news conference in Dar es Salaam.

The SCT started in 2014 on both the northern and central corridors where goods are assessed and declared at the first point of entry and move to the destination partner state with taxes and duties paid upfront.

Kateshumbwa said integration of customs functioning was enhanced through cross-border deployment of staff in partner states, leading to better accountability, deterrence of smuggling and closer cooperation among customs authorities.

“So far we have rolled out goods on the SCT on pilot basis,” Kateshumbwa said. “However, the most important decision we have made today is that we have agreed on the full implementation of the SCT effective July 31, 2017.”

He said customs automation across the region has been enhanced in all member states—Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan—with upgrades of the customs systems and migration to more advanced and robust systems.

“At regional level an inter-connectivity program has been initiated to address the current weaknesses in customs valuation and monitoring of goods across the region,” he said.

Kateshumbwa said due to the changing and dynamic business environment, the EAC has embarked on a comprehensive review of EAC Common External Tariff (CET) to align to the realities of trade.

“The CET is supposed to be reviewed after every five years. The exercise is expected to be finalized by the end of this year,” he said.  .



Microsoft hands over intellectual property hub to COMESA

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Microsoft Corporation has handed over the ownership and management of an Intellectual Property (IP) Hub to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the regional bloc said on Thursday.

The online IP Hub project was started by Microsoft in 2014 to create and encourage an intellectual property culture in Africa as an initiative developed under Microsoft 4Africa, as an online learning resource to drive awareness around intellectual property.

It was to be piloted for two years and thereafter be handed over to the regional bloc member countries.

The regional bloc confirmed in a statement that the IP Hub was officially handed over during a ceremony held in Nairobi Kenya on April 26 on the sidelines of the commemoration of this year’s World Intellectual Property Day.

“The COMESA IP Hub is a concerted effort between the public and private sector for the development of a regional platform that can contribute to a strengthened national IP protection system, in a manner that promotes innovation, business development and trade,” COMESA Secretary-General Sindiso Ngwenya said in the statement.

He added that the value of IP and IP protection has not yet been fully utilized within the region and that the hand over marks a shift in the regional bloc towards the realization of the need to protect IP, with copyright protection being the initial step.

In addition to handing over the IP Hub, Microsoft 4Africa will continue to collaborate with IP authorities in the regional bloc to automate their IP registration processes.

Microsoft and COMESA are also working together to enable the creation of new IP by promoting a trusted cloud infrastructure, underpinned by relevant policies around cyber security and data privacy.



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