Customs clearing agents play an important role in cross-border trade, supporting traders by handling the documentation needed to gain clearance for goods arriving and leaving the country. A well-functioning border relies heavily on their knowledge, professionalism and integrity. Yet Zambia lacks a proper licensing framework and accreditation programme for customs clearing agents – they can currently obtain a licence to operate without demonstrating the skills required to perform the role.
As a result, many agents lack proper knowledge of how to clear goods in compliance with Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) regulations. Some agents lack technical skills such as harmonised system (HS) classification, valuation, and determination of origin. This can lead to errors in documentation which cause mistrust between traders and customs, a high level of physical inspections and ultimately delays at the border. These delays increase the cost of trade for businesses and the government, damaging Zambia’s international competitiveness.
The government, businesses who trade here and customs clearing agents themselves agreed that proper training and regulation of customs clearing agents could help reduce the time and cost of trading with Zambia.