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Zambian Minister Launches Authorised Economic Operator Programme to Boost Trade Facilitation

The Minister of Commerce, Trade, and Industry in Zambia, Hon. Chipoka Mulenga, MP, officially launched the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Programme at the Golden Peacock Hotel in Lusaka today. The initiative, spearheaded by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), aims to expedite customs clearance, enhance trade facilitation, and foster cooperation among national border agencies.

The Minister emphasized that the AEO Programme, building upon the existing Customs Accredited Clients Programme by the ZRA, will offer several benefits to the private sector, including streamlined customs clearance, self-release order privileges, and mutual recognition arrangements with other customs administrations. These measures aim to reduce trade barriers, cut costs, and promote collaboration among various national border agencies.

Zambia is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has been implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement, emphasizing the importance of trade facilitation to boost economic growth and transformation. 

The Minister noted that these reforms are in line with the government’s policies and priorities, as articulated in various national documents, including the National Trade Policy and the 8th National Development Plan.

He also highlighted President Hakainde Hichilema’s commitment to working towards non-stop borders and a streamlined border management system, aiming to reduce physical operations at borders in favor of electronic means. 

The Minister further emphasized the need to repeal and replace the Border Management and Trade Facilitation Act in line with the New Dawn Government’s policy direction.

Improved trade facilitation plays a vital role in influencing national development, and the Minister shared that a 2023 World Bank study revealed that developing countries increased their share of global exports from 16% to 30%, partly due to trade facilitation.

Under Article 7.7 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, Member States are required to provide additional trade facilitation measures for operators deemed compliant or low-risk. 

Zambia’s adoption of the AEO Programme aligns with these international standards, and the Minister called on all stakeholders to ensure its successful implementation.

The AEO Programme in Zambia has already enrolled four companies, and it is expected that this initiative will pave the way for smoother and more efficient trade while optimizing revenue collection.

The Minister concluded by challenging the ZRA and other border agencies to expand the Programme, ensuring that accredited operators enjoy its benefits across all agencies. This expansion would require the development of a joint risk management criterion by all border agencies.

The successful launch of the AEO Programme marks a significant step towards enhancing trade facilitation and supporting economic growth in Zambia.

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