Rwanda Agricultural Livestock Inspection and Certification Services (RALIS) a directorate under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) is a public institution responsible for the overall coordination of: the enforcement of the Rwanda plant health law and regulations for phytosanitary measures necessary for trade, Plant pest/disease monitoring, surveillance and diagnosis, conducting Pest Risk Analysis, and conduct inspection and certification. RALIS also delivers animal product’s certification services including enforcement of sanitary laws, monitoring and surveillance of animal diseases, and animal inspection and certification.
This case study shows how the TMEA support to RALIS has been used to automate the systems and processes used to regulate and facilitate businesses in Rwanda by reducing the time and cost spent when acquiring import and export permits. The RALIS SWIFT project was implemented at an estimated budget of US$ 124,000 and the projected started in 2011 and is expected to be ending in 2017 with the main implementing partner being TMEA. The e-portal targeted importers and exporters of plant, plant materials, animal and animal product’s, and agrichemicals in Rwanda.
Before the automation of the systems and process at RALIS, the old system was bureaucratic and not effective and efficient in serving the stakeholders and the general public because it was relatively slow in the process of applications and giving feedback, a lot of signatures were required and too much paper work was involved. All this in the long run were contributing to increasing the cost and time of doing business and also hindering the smooth movement of goods which was affecting the business community negatively.
THE RESPONSE AND APPROACH
Over a period of almost four years, TMEA has been engaging with different partners in the area of trade and transport facilitation to come up with innovative solutions that will enhance the capacity and quality of trade within the East African Community (EAC). One of the means that TMEA and its partners were using to realize these objectives and in particular, enhanced trade environment was to come up with effective trade systems and processes that were anchored in fully automating/computerizing/digitizing the processes and workflow of trade agencies or organizations within the region. The outcomes of this endeavour were the development and implementation of Information Portals (IP) and Management Information Systems (MIS) for smaller agencies and organizations that would ultimately link/interface to the National Electronic Single Windows. This programme known as Single Window Information for Trade (SWIFT) was working with import/export agencies as well as the private sector to automate their trade facilitation business processes and set up trading regulations information portals, thus enabling easier access to information and online forms for the trading community.
3.1 PROJECT GOALS
The TMEA SWIFT projects intervention, aimed at achieving the following:
a) Enhancing availability and handling of information.
b) Simplifying and expediting information flows between traders and government.
c) Achieving greater harmonization and better sharing of relevant trade data across governmental systems and
d) Bringing meaningful gains to all parties involved in cross-border trade and ultimately resulting in improved efficiency and effectiveness in the administration of regulatory trade documents and reduce costs both for Governments and for traders due to better use of resources.
3.2 INNOVATIONS IN THE PROJECT
With the business transaction (import and export) related issues and challenges at RALIS, TMEA came up with innovative solutions to addresses these issues through the SWIFT project that was being implemented at RALIS. The SWIFT project involved the development of the trade portal that offered services to the stakeholders that included: accessing information on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) requirements, international and Rwanda trade regulations, request for services and also making applications as well as receive import and export permits. The TMEA support also enabled RALIS to integrate their system with the financial systems such as the national payment gateway and banking systems and also the Rwanda Electronic Single Window to enable information sharing between Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and RALIS.
The Intended stakeholders for this initiative were: Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, RALIS and its stakeholders/beneficiaries of the system that include importers and exporters of plant, plant materials, animal and animal product’s, and agrichemicals
3.4 RESULTS ACHIEVED
With support from TMEA, RALIS produced the following results:
a) Average document processing time for key trade processes reduced from 24 hours in 2011 to 2 hours in 2016 which was a 92% reduction.
b) The average document processing cost reduced by 83% from US$ 60 in 2011 to US$ 10 in 2016.
c) There was a total of 5 processes automated that included: Inspection, Pest risk analysis, quarantine and testing and certification.
d) 100 stakeholders were trained and able to complete transactions through the portal.
e) There were 1,430 approved transactions through the e-portal.
With the RALIS system being integrated with financial systems such as the national payment gateway and banking systems, there are opportunities for further reducing transaction and administrative costs. In addition, the linkages within the RALIS system also creates an opportunity to enhance inter-government agency coordination which will improve on service delivery and good governance in Rwanda. The RALIS systems supported by TMEA being well aligned to the Rwanda Government vision of making Rwanda a paperless economy through automating all government services to the public and the private sector
provides a great opportunity of making the project initiatives, results and skills very sustainable. However, the project implementation at RALIS was good and this created a conducive and smooth environment for the business community.
4.2 LESSONS LEARNED
a) Investment in modern technology (ICT) was vital for trade facilitation in Rwanda.
b) The RALIS trade portal has been able to work efficiently and also addresses the issues of stakeholders in Rwanda because the portal development and implementation was based on the requirements and needs of the RALIS end-users which was a critical success factor.
c) Strong political will and commitment from the government of Rwanda was an important success factors of the SWIFT project.
Balton Rwanda is a privately owned company that started in 2007 with one of its main focus being agriculture and is located in Kigala Rwanda. Balton Rwanda has been at the forefront of the ever-developing agriculture sector in Rwanda through the importation and introduction of modern agriculture related technologies such as drip irrigation, greenhouses and soluble fertilizers and other equipment used in the agricultural production. Balton Rwanda is one of the many stakeholders using the electronic portal at RALIS to get import permits and is also enjoying the benefits that came with TMEA supporting the modern technology to facilitation trade in Rwanda.
During the interaction with the manual RALIS systems which was before the TMEA project intervention, Balton says that applying for an import permit used to involve taking hard copies and then waiting to pick the import permit from RALIS. Balton further said that the old systems at RALIS was wasting a lot of time and there was bureaucracy which involved looking for signatures before submitting and collection of the documents. Balton further narrated that the manual old systems involved burdensome trade procedures which involved a lot of paper printing, financing the staff involved in the application process which was an obstacle to their business competitiveness.
Balton narrated that with the implementation of the automated systems at RALIS, the transaction and administrative time and costs associated with issuance of import permits had significantly reduced. This helped them reduce on the time, money and other resources like paper spent during their transactions with RALIS and this move also kept them competitive. He further narrated that with this automated system they would be able to track and monitor the progress of their applications a thing they said was good because the systems was predictable and effective and there was general improvement in service delivery.
Balton reported that there was also a significant reduction in the bureaucracy of getting signatures and that the systems was more efficient and secure with Quick Response (QR) code making the documents management process transparent and also avoiding counterfeit import permit. As a frequent user of the RALIS system, Balton suggested that the systems should be continuously improved and enhanced to serve the RALIS stakeholders better and faster.