Zimbabwe’s accelerates implementation of the WTO trade Facilitation Agreement

Oct 31 / Rutendo MAPANI | Ambrose MUKONYORA | Alick MUTANDIRO
In order to facilitate trade, Zimbabwe ratified the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) on 17 October 2018. The WTO defines trade facilitation as “the simplification and harmonization of international trade procedures”. The main objective of trade facilitation is to improve the overall trade environment and reduce trade costs thereby increasing compliance.

Zimbabwe creates a more transparent business environment for traders

Written by Rutendo MAPANI

The TFA includes 11 provisions that aim at enhancing transparency and a healthy business environment. The objective of WTO transparency is not only to reduce information irregularities among governments, but also those among the state, citizens, trade and industry players.

The WTO TFA calls for Members to provide a number of so-called transparency notifications to the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee. To fulfil this, Zimbabwe, with the help of UNCTAD, has notified the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee official places where trade-related information is published as provided for by Article 1.4 of the WTO TFA. The availability of information in the public domain will help to decrease the time and cost of accessing trade related information to traders.

The notifications were officially published in the WTO TFA Database on 22 September 2023.

Zimbabwe Launches Pilot Run of Electronic Single Window System at Forbes Border Post

Written by Ambrose MUKONYORA

The first transaction in the ZESW being made by an agent from Shalom Logistics in Mutare
The first transaction in the ZESW being made by an agent from Shalom Logistics in Mutare

In a significant step toward enhancing trade facilitation and efficiency, Zimbabwe has initiated the pilot rollout of the Electronic Single Window (ZESW) system at Forbes Border Post. This digital platform aims to streamline customs processes, consolidating government border agencies and improving the overall ease of doing business. The pilot run of the ZESW system marks an important milestone in Zimbabwe's efforts to modernize its trade procedures and foster economic growth.

The Electronic Single Window system brings together multiple government agencies involved in trade and customs procedures onto a unified single window platform. This integration enables traders and stakeholders to submit or lodge applications and complete necessary clearance processes through a single online portal. By centralizing these activities, the ZESW system eliminates duplicated efforts, reduces paperwork, and expedites the flow of goods across borders.

Forbes Border Post has been chosen as the pilot location for the rollout of the ESW system, reflecting the government's commitment to testing the platform's functionality and effectiveness. As a key trade gateway between Zimbabwe and Mozambique through to northern regional neighbours, Forbes Border Post handles a significant volume of imports and exports. The pilot run will allow authorities to gather valuable insights and fine-tune the system before expanding its implementation to other border posts.

The successful implementation of the ZESW system requires close collaboration and engagement among various stakeholders, including government agencies, customs authorities, traders, and technology providers. Zimbabwe's government is actively working with these stakeholders to ensure seamless integration, address challenges, and provide necessary support and training to users of the system. The current pilot rollout at Forbes has implementation of Port Health module, which is seeing all imports and exports through Forbes that require inspection by the Ministry of Health having the applications for inspection now being lodged through the ZESW.

The pilot run of the ZESW system at Forbes Border Post serves as a crucial step toward the wider implementation of the platform across other border posts in Zimbabwe. Once the system's functionality and effectiveness are validated through the pilot, the government plans to roll out the ZESW system at additional trade gateways by November 2023, further improving trade facilitation and boosting the country's competitiveness in the global market. In addition, after the successful pilot run of the port health module, additional agencies will be added onto the ZESW platform with engagements with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce already underway to have it on the ZESW platform.

UNCTAD consultants, Mr. Hillinger and Innocent Onega, played a crucial role in supporting the establishment of Zimbabwe's Single Window system. They provided valuable expertise in capacity building and facilitated knowledge transfer throughout the development process and are still offering support until the system stabilises.

The pilot rollout of the Electronic Single Window system at Forbes Border Post marks an important milestone in Zimbabwe's journey toward modernizing trade procedures and enhancing cross-border trade facilitation with stakeholder collaboration and continuous improvement efforts, Zimbabwe aims to leverage the benefits of digitalization to create a conducive environment for trade and position itself as a regional trade hub. It also ensures Zimbabwe’s compliance with Article 1.4 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Time management and time release studies released to enhance predictability of trade procedures in Zimbabwe

Written by Alick M. MUTANDIRO

Article 7.6 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement encourages Members to measure and publish the average release time of goods from time to time. The objective, as stated by WCO, is to find bottlenecks in the trade flow process and taking necessary measures to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures.

1.Time Management Studies (TMS) Chirundu OSBP

A joint baseline TMS was conducted at Chirundu in May 2022 with the assistance of JICA. This was a simultaneous survey conducted by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) teams working independently but covering the same periods and times of the day.

The survey was limited to just the customs processes for commercial traffic and was conducted with the participation of customs officials only.

Data gathered was analysed and a report was then compiled. This is pending validation processes through ZIMRA’s Executive Management, the National Trade Facilitation Committee and all other stakeholders pending actual launch.

The report will be launched in Zimbabwe by not later than 8 November 2023.

A small supplementary survey was conducted to cover private traffic in September 2023. The report is pending finalization and will be published separately once validated.

An end line study, again facilitated by JICA, has been planned for commencement in May 2024 on Chirundu, this time widening the scope to involve all other stakeholders and all traffic categories. The report for the end line study is expected to be launched by not later than September 2024.

2.SADC - Durban to Kasumbalesa Time Release Studies (TRS)

Another study was facilitated by SADC covering the North South Corridor from Durban to Kasumbalesa between April and September 2023. The Zimbabwean portion of the route was managed by TWG members selected from Beitbridge, assisted by SADC appointed short time experts.

The survey covey covered Beitbridge entry/exit issues as well as Chirundu exit/entry issues as well as other critical points on the stretch between Beitbridge and Chirundu. The survey also involved various stakeholders at the two entry points and those at the various points along the route within Zimbabwe.
The team is now compiling the report after gathering additional supporting system data to close off issues noted during the actual survey. ZIMRA awaits finalization of the global report that will include sub-reports for the South African and Zambian portions of the route. No definitive timelines have been indicated but the report is expected to be launched by end of 2023.

Once the results are out, Zimbabwe will share with the WTO Committee on Trade Facilitation the national experiences on measuring average release times, methodologies that were used, bottlenecks identified and outcomes which positively affected the efficiency of customs procedures.

Rutendo MAPANI

Rutendo Mapani is a Technical Services Manager at the Valuation, Registrations and International Liaison, of the Customs and Excise Division at Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. She is also a member of the Secretariat of the Zimbabwe Trade Facilitation Committee


Ambrose Mukonyora is an ASYCUDA functional specialist in the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority who has been with the unit from 2018 to date. He is also a member of the Zimbabwe Electronic Single Window Project Implementation team.


Alick M. Mutandiro holds key positions, including Manager of Technical Services, Manager of Research and Development, Operations Manager, and Head of Transit Management at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).

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