By Lambert B. Rusoke

Uganda and South Africa are set to start the implementation of the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) that was signed early this year.

This comes after the two countries concluded a joint AEO process validation exercise, with a delegation from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) conducting a working visit to URA recently. The purpose of the exercise was to fulfill the joint validation phase of the MRA implementation.

Under the arrangement, both countries shall recognize and accept the AEO status of each other’s traders, which means beneficiaries can enjoy benefits in both countries.

According to URA’s Commissioner of Customs, Abel Kagumire, through the MRA, AEOs will enjoy priority clearance, ensuring expeditious processing of goods exported between the two countries.

“This MRA has tremendous advantages, including quick customs clearance, estimated to improve speed by 60% compared to previous procedures. In addition, the MRA is expected to save 10% in logistics costs leading to enhanced trade efficiency,” noted Kagumire.

Kagumire commended SARS for expediting the MRA implementation process and choosing to partner with URA.

“I want to thank the leadership of South Africa and SARS in particular for picking Uganda as its partner. The speed at which we have moved since the signing of the MRA is commendable, and now what remains is the implementation stage,” he said.

During the visit, a joint validation exercise was conducted for two applicants, Africa Polysac and East African Packaging Systems, to verify their compliance and security standards. This was conducted by officials from both authorities.

The exercise aimed at strengthening cooperation and trust between the revenue authorities, thereby promoting a harmonized approach to AEO accreditation and monitoring.

Sidima Henry Green, the Business Area Lead Validations at SARS, commended the process, noting that the sharing of information between the two countries will ease trade facilitation.

“It’s important for us to share information and learn from the two different cultures. Information exchange can be an impeding factor in international trade, but with such agreements, we shall be able to serve our clients better,” said Sidima.

URA has set out to become a business enabler, and the implementation of trade agreements like this is testament to that. The Authority has also become a benchmark for AEO accreditation around the region, with Uganda currently boasting of 118 companies under the program.

Additional Reporting by Winiefred Akinyi

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