Regional trade made easier

The United States Ambassador, Thomas F. Daughton and the Minister of Finance, Hon Calle Schlettwein are flanked by two trade experts as the ambassador shows the minister the bells and whistles of the newly launched online Namibia Trade Information Portal. On the left is Customs & Excise Portal Project Manager, Melanie Tjijenda and on the right, Daniel Melkin of USAID’s Southern Africa Trade Hub. (Photograph by Freeman Ngulu)

The United States Government and Namibia’s Department of Customs & Excise in the Ministry of Finance, on Wednesday launched a website that is designed to improve the efficiency of cross-border trade by providing information on and access to customs documentation.

Called the Trade Information Portal, it provides online internet-based tools that help with the search for codes and related descriptions associated with particular products. These codes are required for any item that need to be imported or exported from or through Namibia.
The portal also provides an estimation calculator for duties and taxes payable for the import and export of goods.
Previously local and international importers, exportes and government agencies had to gather procedures and regulations from a variety of sources and stakeholders to receive updated information.
The Commissioner of Customs & Excise, Bevan Simataa said at the launch that the former process was repetitive, time consuming and costly.
The Trade Information Portal is the beginning of a single window information source for businesses to get what they need to know when dealing in cross-border trade. The tool is paving way for a transparent “National Single Window” to conduct commerce.
The storing of all relevant trade regulatory information on the Namibia Trade Information Portal is made available to national, regional and international trading partners.
The US Ambassador, Thomas F. Daughton speaking at the launch, said that the online tool is an esssential piece of a larger, ongoing Namibian effort to harness the contry’s strategic positon to increase business and trade in the region with the National Single Window.
The portal also provides the country with the commercial responsiveness needed to be competive in the global market which will help expand trade.
Experts provided by the US goverment through USAID’s Southern Africa Trade Hub in collaboration with local officicials, took over two years involing local expertise to design and develop the Trade Information Portal based on international best practises.
Daughton said that Namibia is at an advantage with its geographic position and that in other countries such single National Single Window initiatives have reduced customs processing time from days to less than 90 minutes.
The Minister of Finance, Hon. Calle Schlettwein, who officially launched the trade portal echoed Daughton’s words saying that his ministry, through its Customs & Excise and Inland Revenue Services, has set a target to embrace technology to fasttrack efficient service delivery.
Schlettwein said that knowledge, information and technology are one of the eight main themes in the fourth National Development Plan in building a robust knowledge-based society and making the economy more competitive.
The minister cautioned however that the portal needs timely updated information from key government agencies who, he instructed, will have to allocate human resources from their ministries to share information with the Ministry of Finance in keeping the portal updated.
Simataa said at the launch that her agency is in the process of migrating to an enhanced Customs Management System, a process that started in 2012, to automate customs data processes through an internet-based platform.
This system and platform, she said, allows for simpler procedures and documentation, easier aggregation of data at regional and international levels enabling better and faster decision-making. It also helps to implement standards set by the World Trade Organisation.
Namibia is the first member of the World Customs Organisation in the East and Southern African Region to implement the full suite of the national Customs Enforcement Network. That network, also known as nCEN, links to another database that collects and stores law enforcement information to share with regional and international partners based at the WTO headquarters in Brussels.
Schlettwein encouraged the local business community to share comments on the website with a view to improve it by logging in at .