By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Unending customs check-points, fraud, harassment by corrupt customs officials, difficulties and delays in processing documents for customs clearance, among others, will soon be the thing of the past between Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon, as the two Central African nations have agreed to seek the help of ICTs to computerise their customs services.
The project, which analysts believe will boost trade and travel between the two countries, will see the two countries centralise their respective systems, Congo-Brazzaville’s GUOT (Guichet Unique des Opérations Transfrontalières) and Cameroon’s GUCE (Guichet Unique des Opérations du Commerce Extérieur) into a single digital platform (guichet unique).
This is in accordance with the recommendations of the African Union and the African Alliance for E-commerce.
“I hope that the computerisation of these services will give peace of mind to ordinary travellers and business people who are being subjected to daily harassments, including corruption, violence and extortion, on both sides of the border posts by immigration and customs officials,” Chantal Koah, a businesswoman who travels regularly between the two countries, told Biztechafrica.
Gilles Montagnat Rentier and Gilles Parent wrote on their working paper, Réforme et Modernisation des Douanes en Afrique sub-Saharienne Francophone, (published in 2012) that despite the progress made by a number of African countries to computerise their customs services, the pace and extent of that modernisation remained inadequate, particularly in the areas of developing customs controls and combating fraud, strengthening operational resources, and improving the management and the coaching services.
Cheating, bribery and fraud were occurring because of several links, Abdullahi Faouzi, of the African Alliance for E-Commerce, said, adding that digital data stored and processed in one unique platform would be difficult to manipulate and tamper with.
A workshop held recently by the Chamber of Commerce in Ouesso, in the municipality of Sangha in northern Congo-Brazzaville, was aimed at creating awareness and training both customs officers and businesses on the ABCs and advantages of the new computerised system.
Congo-Brazzaville only has two well-known computerised border posts, the capital Brazzaville and second-largest city Pointe Noire, which are said to be powered by the ICT programme called Sydonia.
Another border post, Pokola, is also digitised but through a programme called Sinorg, while Dolisie, Ouesso et Impfondo are are still using an analogue, manual system called DAU (Document Administratif Unique).
Sydonia is proving to be a powerful programme, which is thought to be used by over 80 countries around the world to digitise their customs services.