In a bid to transform the logistics industry, Ethiopia is to kick of a USD 32 million project which will help the country establish a single-window service system.

The Single-Window System is said to be critical to relieve the bottlenecks surrounding export and import of items into and from Ethiopia.

The project, which will be executed in two phases, is estimated to be completed within four years; and is financed by the World Bank Group (WBG).

A national committee chaired by Prime Minister Hailemaraim Desalegne will oversee the Single-Window System project.

It is to be recalled that in April, 2017, the WBG has approved USD 150 million in financial assistant to improve the efficiency of the overall trade logistics system in Ethiopia which includes the Modjo Dry Port facility.

A company from South Korea has been selected to undertake the implementation of the project and a contract agreement between this company and Ethiopian government has been signed recently.

The implementation of this Single-Window System will considerably shorten the timeframe to obtain document clearances during import and export.

A number of studies conducted in Ethiopia’s trade as well as transport and logistics industry indicate that the sector is still suffering from a number of shortcomings.

For instance, a recent World Bank report puts Ethiopia’s logistic services sector at a lower rank compared to both the international and the Sub-Saharan standards. For example, in order to complete a single custom clearance process, one has to pass through 103 procedures and shuffle around some 21 documents, the report indicated.

It will at least take 42 to 44 days, according to WB’s survey, to import containers. This is still behind the sub-Saharan standard.

This particular project will connect close to 40 government agencies which are involved in the logistic value chain. In this regard, the first twenty agencies will be integrated during the first phase; and the remaining in the second.

Agencies such as Ethiopian Revenues & Custom Authority (ERCA), Ministry of Finance & Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry, and Ministry of Agriculture & Natural Resource will be linked with banks and insurances via the single-window system.

“We have almost completed all the needed preparation concerning the project,” said Debelle Kebata, director for Branch Operations Assistance at ERCA.

So far, a project office which will oversee the implementation of the project has been established. Moreover, different studies on the current trends of the Ethiopian logistic industry and what it ought to be are being conducted, at the present. Again, action plans and selection of activities has been completed.

“We are only left with one national committee meeting,” said Debelle. “After that, we will officially launch the project”.

Purchase of information technology equipment will be next on the to-do list, according to Debelle.

“This is something that we have been waiting for, for a long time,” said Mulugeta Assefa, president of Freight Forwarders and Shipping Agencies’ Association.

“I hope it will bring a significant change to the industry,” he said.

Established in 1998, the association strives to achieve a change in the freight forwarding and shipping sector of Ethiopia.

The association has been advocating for an increased involvement of the private sector in the logistics industry.