Commissioner General Yankuba Darboe

Senior government functionaries, ex-customs chiefs and members of the business community were among a glittering array of high-profile guests at the ground breaking event for the roll out on Monday of the upgraded version of the ASYCUDA WORLD from ASYCUDA++.

The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) has now upgraded the previous version of the Automated System for Customs Data-ASYCUDA++ -to ASYCUDA WORLD, which according to officials, has great revenue generation and trade facilitation potentials.

The excitement over the introduction of this new system was palpable at Monday’s launch following four years of setback.

However, according to the Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), with resilience and commitment, the hurdles were surmounted.

“The journey to this destination was bumpy,” Commissioner General Yankuba Darboe recalled.

He recounted: “In the initial stages, the project suffered several setbacks caused by the deadlock between the African Development Bank (financing agency) and UNCTAD (implementing agency). It took two years before they agree. As soon as the ADB and UNCTAD agreed, Covid-19 came. Yet we remained committed in the face of these challenges and today we are proud to reach the end of the tunnel with the successful launch of the system within the timeline prescribed by the project.”

According to the GRA boss, the country’s revenue collection agency was motivated to migrate from the analogue version of ASYCUDA++ to ASYCUDA WORLD because the latest system can interface with all the existing systems, especially new technologies.

“This is the reason why many customs administrations around the world have shifted to ASYCUDA WORLD version,” he pointed out.

The revenue collection boss said the fact that ASYCUDA WORLD is an upscaled version of ASYCUDA++, its accessible from anywhere around the globe with reliable internet service as it is web-based, allowing for interaction on laptop, mobile phone and other smart devices.

“Because the system is on the internet, it allows 24/7 declaration of custom processes without the need to wait for long hours or working hours.

“It will digitalize and modernize all customs operations from the manifest to the release of the cargo with little or no human intervention,” he enumerated.

Commissioner General Darboe was upbeat that ASYCUDA WORLD will serve as a propellant to trade promotion as it will speed up the process of custom declaration and significantly reduce transaction time for payment and release of cargo.

“It is going to be a tool for trade facilitation. This is an achievement for the finance and trade ministry,” he enthused.

According to GRA boss, the new system provides assurance for predictability of processes and procedures.

“It will improve and enhance the quality of international trade data. It will enhance the administrative efficiency by allowing that inter-agency cooperation for enforcement and facilitate trade in The Gambia. Now, you can see why we are excited about the introduction of this new system.”

He informed the guests who attended the ASYCUDA WORLD roll-out that the idea of digitizing GRA’s revenue collection system has been central in the revenue collection authority’s previous and existing strategic plans.

“To achieve this objective, in 2018 the management of GRA prevailed on the ministry of finance and economic affairs to seek funding (US$1.3m) to upgrade our current ASYCUDA++ version to a more advanced, more flexible, more user-friendly ASYCUDA WORLD version.

“I thanked the ADB for making our dream of transition into ASYCUDA WORLD version a reality. I thank UNCTAD for configuring the system,” he stated.

The revenue administration boss also thanked the Gambia government for its counterpart contribution.

The Coordinator of the ASYCUDA WORLD project, Mr. Saffie Dambele of the finance ministry in his statement at the launch of the ASYCUDA WORLD, said the aim of the upgrade is to improve the operational efficiency of revenue collection for financing development needs.

A representative from the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD), Emmanuel Maron, thanked the Gambia government for the trust and cooperation during the course of the project’s implementation.

The Managing Director of GAMTEL, Fatoumatta Danso, pointed out that the new system embraces transparency, enhances and facilitates digital tax collection as she dilated on GAMTEL’s involvement with the upgrading project as provider of the fire optics network backbone.

The Chairperson of GRA Board of Directors, Joyce Faye Cole, described the launch of the upgraded version as a celebration of a milestone.

The Minister of Trade, Seedy Keita, also described the event as a watershed moment.

“When others are struggling, GRA is thriving,” he recognized.