DHL: Know Your Customs Requirements


With the growth of the e-commerce industry and the increasing ease of conducting business electronically, it isn’t surprising that more businesses are choosing to trade across borders to take advantage of the revenue-generating potential that the export and import of goods offers.

While there are numerous exciting business opportunities – as international markets continue to express interest in local African products/services and vice versa – international trade remains a complex process, which if not managed correctly can create unfavourable situations for businesses and their partners.

This is according to Oliver Facey, Vice-President of Operations at DHL Express Sub–Saharan Africa, who says that it is important for businesses to be aware of the diverse trade regulations, and implications of these, when moving shipments across the various borders in Africa and abroad.

Businesses need to have an understanding of customs requirements applicable to their product’s origin and destination, in order to minimise any delay and extra costs at border clearance.

“First and foremost, customs usually require the importer or exporter to register as an importer/exporter before transacting internationally,” says Facey. “Following this, businesses need to ensure they have the correct paperwork.”

“Typical documents required include certificates stating the proof of the products origin, as some goods could attract preferred rates of duty depending on their country of origin. There are also goods that require inspection and release by other government agencies, such as the health department, so it is imperative to enquire whether the goods being shipped from specific countries require additional permits.”

Invoices also need to be provided and these need to be in a specific format and include the purpose for the product and the proof of their values.

Commodities are coded by means of a tariff number, and as a result, a Harmonised Tariff code will be assigned to the product, which is a code that determines the rate of duty payable on that specific commodity.

“Another aspect to consider is whether there are any special requirements for the specific country the product is being shipped to, such as temporary imports/exports and restrictions”, says Facey. “There are prohibited and restricted goods that can only be shipped in and out of the country under a permit or license, such as plant products which require a phytosanitary certificate or medicine, and scheduled substances which usually need a medical control council certificate.”

Traceability and transparency in the transportation process are also both vital.

“Not only will this help keep the customer informed, but it will also assist the company in preventing delays, should there by a stoppage in the process. With the knowledge of a particular stoppage, a business can then help resolve the issue quickly and efficiently, as in some instances the delay is likely solved by supplying extra data or forms.”

The speed of delivery needed for the shipment also needs to be considered when assessing the company’s transportation needs.

“Businesses must match the transport need to the needs of the customer, which can be categorised into the size, urgency, cost, speed and complexity of the shipment,” says Facey.

It is advisable to seek assistance and local knowledge from appropriate service providers that can support and advise according to a business’ individual needs.

“By fully understanding the processes and terminology involved with entering the different markets, African businesses can build a long-term foundation for even more successful international trade,” concludes Facey.