If governments and, for that matter, traders in Africa were granted one wish to make their lives easier, chances are they would ask for a magic system that would, at the touch of a key, cut through all the jungles of bureaucracy and form filling that blight everyday transactions on the continent.
“That is exactly the wish that the government of Singapore made back in the 1980s,” says Saw Ken Wye, CEO of CrimsonLogic. “As you know, trade is Singapore’s lifeblood. We were going through a painful recession and a lot of the revenues were being lost to cumbersome processes. The question was how to make trade more productive, more efficient?”
That, says Saw Ken Wye, was the start of a remarkable journey that led to the development of the world’s first ‘single-window’ system and in time, to a full spectrum of eGovernment services.
Set up jointly by IE Singapore (then the Singapore Trade Development Board), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, PSA Corporation and Singapore Telecommunications, CrimsonLogic began operations in 1988.
It developed TradeNet®, a single-window system that connected multiple parties involved in external trade. The system, as defined by the UN, is a “facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements”.
It enables traders to have 24-hour access to the electronic transmission of trade documents. “TradeNet® allowed us to connect Singapore Customs, Port Authorities and 33 other government controlling agencies to a single online platform for most trade documentation tasks, such as processing import and export permits, and certificates of origin. It facilitates the processing and approval of trade permits, reducing processing time to less than three minutes per application,” recalls Saw Ken Wye. “Today, we process about nine million online transactions annually.”
Contrast this with agonisingly slow processing and clearance at even some of the best African ports – the only exceptions are where CrimsonLogic has applied its magic wand. Of all the obstacles that stand in the way of a rapid expansion of African trade, the worst culprit has been the often unbelievably sluggish movement of goods from ship to shore and from storage to wherever the final destination may lie.
This is not only the slowest in the world, it is the most expensive in the world to boot. The costs are, of course, passed on to the final consumer, who, in effect, is often paying several times more for the same product than anybody else anywhere in the world is paying. Little wonder that it has been so difficult to raise the poverty level of the continent despite Africa’s impressive growth rates.
Encouraged by the success of TradeNet®, “and the experience gained in trade facilitation, CrimsonLogic ventured into other areas of eGovernment, such as eServices, eCitizens, eJustice and so on,” says Saw Ken Wye.
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