The Zambia Revenue Authority’s maintenance of ASYCUDA World, a web-based system for the transition of goods into the country, has continued to negatively affect the local clearing industry, says a freight forwarding association.

Last month, ZRA Commissioner General Kingsley Chanda applauded 10 clearing agents identified during his visit to Northern and Muchinga provinces for helping to boost tax compliance in the country, while urging local agents to up their game.

But in an interview with News Diggers! Customs Clearing and Freight Forwarding Agents Association of Zambia (CCFFAAZ) president Bruce Kaemba observed that the monopoly by international companies in the clearing industry showed that the teething challenges still being faced from the ASYCUDA World was significantly affecting local clearing agents’ performance.

“The disclosure by ZRA that currently only 10 clearing agents out of the 719 registered in Zambia, handle and control 90 per cent of the clearing business in the country is the correct picture, but a very disheartening one. Especially that these 10 clearing agents handling the bulk of the business are all multi-nationals. This monopoly is a clear indication that there is something very wrong in the clearing industry at the moment, and the sooner this gloomy scenario is changed, the better for our country. It is clear that the current happenings in the clearing industry are not in the interest of ZRA, neither are they in the interest of the indigenous clearing agents. This is so because true and meaningful development in our country can only be brought about by Zambians,” Kaemba said.

“We need to be pioneers of development and only then can such developments benefit us all. The need to have a home-grown development, which is largely spearheaded by indigenous Zambians is the reason why our forefathers fought for our Independence. It, therefore, would be an affront to this struggle if we fail to take ownership of our country and drive the economic development through various business opportunities available in our country. What is currently pertaining in various businesses in our country leaves much to be desired and unless we collectively and pro-actively start to regain control of the abundant natural resources, which the country has, posterity will judge us cruelly.”

He added that a clear line should be drawn between what foreigners could be allowed to do in terms of business and what strictly should be left to Zambians to undertake.

“It is unfortunate that 54 years after Independence, we, as indigenous Zambians, are failing to harness the business opportunities available to us, not only in the clearing sector, but other sectors as well. We are glad the government has agreed to actively engage us and they have pro-actively decided to respond to some of our suggestions on how to better the clearing industry. In the same vein, the government has acknowledged that it was not aware of some of the challenges being faced in the clearing sector because principle implementers at ZRA negated on the role of informing it on the failures of some systems, which are used to facilitate the smooth flow of trade,” explained Kaemba.

“One of the challenges we are currently facing in the clearing industry is the ASYCUDA world. This is a system that ZRA introduced; it gives us a lot of problems because of the way Zambia Revenue Authority decided to introduce it in the industry. Chance was not given for it to prove itself in terms of how it was able to perform. Before that, we had what was called the ‘ASYCUDA plus plus.’ We requested that if it was possible that the two can be allowed to operate parallel so that the minute one is found faulty or something, then we could just go back to the other. But ZRA wanted to advance with the ASYCUDA World and since the time it was introduced up to-date, we are still having a lot of problems. The ASYCUDA World is very inefficient. We have tried on several occasions to hasten to see if they can remove it from the operating but they have refused, that a lot of money was invested in it. And as the situation stands right now, they are working on it. Right now, the government has been given an impression through the Auditor general that the clearing industry is owing a lot of money running into millions, but it’s a wrong picture that the ASYCUDA World is giving where it’s showing that a lot of agents are owing money.”