If announcements made by Cameroon and South Korea late last week are anything to go by, Cameroonians and better still the business class could already start dreaming for better days ahead in the clearance of goods in her seaports.
By virtue of two agreements signed between customs officials of the two countries on Friday September 4, 2015, Cameroon has agreed to embrace electronic clearance of goods at the seaport. Stakeholders say the innovation is a seven-module internet clearance threshold that makes for an expedient and business-friendly method of clearing goods at the port. Media reports from the event say the E-clearance device, as it is known, gives users the opportunity to access the portal anywhere and at anytime.
This is with the use of an internet-accustomed device imbued with top security standards containing powerful features which is connected to the entire customs system. Apologists of the novelty in Cameroon say from the initial import and export declarations to the required permit and point where goods are finally released from customs control; all operations are computerized without any human intervention.
Merits of the innovation, Korean experts say, are its susceptibility to make customs procedures more expedient, increase revenue collection and ensure customs transparency. They say for the 20 years the system has been operating in Korea, palpable fruits are there to show. The fact that Korea and Cameroon were at the same level of development some decades back and that Korea is far developed today makes even skeptics want to believe that the system could alter Cameroon’s unhealthy business climate where cumbersome and corruption-prone procedures have been severally indicted. It pays to be investment-attractive.
Clearing goods at the Douala seaport has come under serious criticisms with actors trading accusations. Detestable as this has been, fruits are but obvious. Containers continue to stockpile at the port making business difficult for those who want to brave the odds. Embracing the innovation under the present context and especially at a time a freshly-constructed port, the Kribi Deep Seaport, is awaiting full functioning cannot but be salutary. The Korean experience is not the first and may not be the last in government’s unwavering desire to make things easier for those importing and exporting goods through our ports.
But for one thing, if the powers that be are convinced that the latest innovation can be of help, and it should be so given that negotiations are said to have begun since 2012, then it should be embraced fully. Even though it would need to be adapted to the Cameroonian context, the innovation shouldn’t in anyway be diluted by ungentlemanly behaviours which at term would keep the name, E-Clearance, with everything but its full application and expected fruits on the ground.
Adapting to the Cameroonian context should not also be synonymous with ‘killing’ the initiative and brandishing its ‘carcass’. In fact, it should be E-Clearance with all its facets inclusive and not ‘à la Camerounaise’ to borrow the unenviable meaning for poorly and quite often egocentric application of innovations in the country.
The Customs administration that will be implementing the novelty would need to bear in mind that people who feed fat from the incessant cacophony at the port today will serve as human walls. Without necessarily standing up face on to the project, they might equally integrate it and channel its implementation to suit their selfish desires. It doesn’t serve any purpose announcing and even going for so-called ‘changes’ just to be seen as doing something when the actual change that comes with real and full innovations almost always pass us by.
Anything short of wholly embracing the Korean proposal would be another lost opportunity to right noticeable and damaging wrongs inherent in clearing goods in our ports.