A case study of Zimbabwe
A Single Window system is a trade facilitation tool that allows traders to submit all the required information and documents for customs clearance and other regulatory compliance through a single electronic platform. It aims to simplify, harmonize, and standardize the procedures and data requirements for international trade, reduce the costs and time involved, and enhance the transparency and efficiency of the process.
A Single Window system can bring various benefits to the customs clearing industry, such as:
- Improving the coordination and cooperation among different government agencies and stakeholders involved in the clearance process, such as customs, border agencies, port authorities, transport operators, banks, insurance companies, etc.
- Reducing the duplication and inconsistency of data and documents, as well as the errors and delays caused by manual processing and paper-based transactions.
- Increasing the security and safety of trade transactions, by enabling the use of advanced technologies such as electronic signatures, digital certificates, risk management systems, etc.
- Supporting the implementation of international standards and best practices, such as the World Customs Organization (WCO) Data Model, the Revised Kyoto Convention, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, etc.
- Enhancing the competitiveness and attractiveness of the country as a trading partner and destination, by facilitating the access to regional and global markets, improving the trade environment, and creating more business opportunities.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries that have recognized the potential of a Single Window system and have embarked on developing and implementing one. The Zimbabwe Electronic Single Window (ZeSW) project was launched in June 2022 by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), with the support of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as a solution provider. The ZeSW is based on the ASYCUDA technology, which is a computerized customs management system that covers most foreign trade procedures.
The ZeSW project aims to achieve the following objectives:
- To provide a single point of entry for all trade-related information and documents for importers and exporters.
- To integrate all relevant government agencies and private sector entities into a seamless clearance process.
- To automate and streamline the workflows and business processes for customs clearance and other regulatory requirements.
- To improve the quality and availability of trade data and statistics for decision making and policy formulation.
- To enhance the compliance level and revenue collection for ZIMRA and other government agencies.
The ZeSW project has been progressing well since its launch, with several milestones achieved, such as:
- The establishment of a project governance structure, comprising of a steering committee, a technical committee, a change management team, and a project management office.
- The review of the current regulatory requirements, identification of process re-engineering opportunities, and development of the Single Window concept.
- The engagement of partner government agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure their buy-in and ownership of the project.
- The design and development of the ZeSW system functionalities and modules, such as trader registration, licensing, selectivity, inspection, payment, etc.
- The testing and piloting of the ZeSW system with selected traders and agencies to ensure its functionality and usability.
The ZeSW project has also received technical assistance from various international organizations, such as:
- The World Customs Organization (WCO), which organized a five-day workshop on the Single Window and WCO Data Model in November 2022. The workshop aimed to build the capacity of ZIMRA and other partner government agencies to understand the role of the Single Window in enhancing trade facilitation and border modernization. It also provided practical guidance on how to use the WCO Data Model to harmonize and standardize the data requirements for trade transactions. A WCO-accredited expert from Nigeria also shared her national experience in developing and managing a National Single Window.
- The World Bank Group (WBG), which provided financial support for the ZeSW project through its Trade Facilitation Support Program (TFSP). The TFSP is a multi-donor trust fund that helps developing countries implement trade facilitation reforms in line with their commitments under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. The TFSP also provides technical support for capacity building, knowledge sharing, monitoring and evaluation, etc.
The ZeSW project is expected to be fully operational by 2024. It is anticipated that it will bring significant benefits to Zimbabwe’s customs clearing industry, as well as to its overall trade performance. By implementing a Single Window system, Zimbabwe will be able to improve its business environment, attract more foreign direct investment, diversify its export markets, increase its regional integration, and achieve its economic development goals.