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Plans are in the works to establish a new government office for controlling international trade using a single electronic window.
Federal offices who have a stake in international trade are drafting the new law that will establish a new office under the federal government to accelerate international trade by streamlining it and eliminating the current system of forcing investors to deal with several bureaucratic processes.
Late last year Beker Shale, Director General of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) and William Asiko, CEO of the International Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) inked a USD 7.3 million deal to establish an electronic Single Window (eSW) system for international trade.
Even though ERCA will spearhead the project, it will also include several ministries and federal offices that play a role in international trade such as the National Bank of Ethiopia.
Setting up the Single Window System will make international trade more efficient by reducing export, import and transit procedures and the time and costs of clearance document preparation. The system will help to make the country’s businesses more competitive, attractive to investment opportunities and stimulate economic development.
The new endeavor is receiving some financial support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group.
The first draft has already been completed and now all the stakeholdersare meeting to revise the law establishing the new federal office.
The affiliated government offices for international trade (import/export) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enable the eSW until the legal framework is endorsed to govern the system by a single entity.
Melsew Hailemariam, communication expert of the Ethiopian electronic single window service international trade project, told Capital that government offices including National Bank of Ethiopia, ERCA, Ministry of trade, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Agriculture, Investment Agency and Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations are involved in the process.
According to Melsew, the MoU will support the implementation of the electronic single window service until the legal framework establishing the independent entity is endorsed by the parliament.
The MoU is part of process facilitating the implementation of the eSW project that is currently in the final stages. The communication expert stated that the project will be fully applied by the coming fiscal year. The MoU will be replaced after the formation of the new entity, which is also expected in the coming fiscal year.
A consultancy firm assigned by IFC is currently undertaking a study to identify the best way to form the entity and who will be responsible for running it.  For instance Kenya has recently formed a similar international trade controlling body called Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade) that is directly responsible to the President. KenTrade is mandated to facilitate cross border trade and establish, manage and implement the National Electronic Single Window System.
eSW which will provide a single electronic point of access for traders to lodge all trade related information and discharge all regulatory obligations for import, export and transit clearance. Hopes are that the  eSW will lead to appreciable gains in productivity and competitiveness for the Ethiopian business community and the capacity of international economic integration of Ethiopia.
It is also expected that the eSW, by providing customs and all other government agencies involved in the clearance of goods with access to a shared data repository and modern information systems facilities, will increase the efficiency of their operations, especially in areas such as risk management, allowing them to focus on generating additional revenue and improved controls, through better targeting of risks leading to greater compliance and facilitation of trade.
The eSW is the second cooperation project between the two parties. Back in 2012, the ERCA and ICF implemented another project to modernize tax administration by creating an online filing system for large tax payers and establishing a call center at ERCA.
The Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) is a donor funded, private sector focused development institution whose purpose is to enhance the economic prospects of African society by working with businesses and governments to improve the investment climate in respective African countries. ICF works with African governments to create a conducive legal, regulatory and administrative environment for businesses, both big and small, to invest, grow and create jobs.