Several times I have been asked how one can either export or import goods out of and into Zimbabwe. For the benefit of everyone, I shall do separate articles detailing the processes. In this article, I am starting with how to import goods into Zimbabwe as a company.

General Regulations

Open General Import Licence (OGIL)

An Open General Import Licence (OGIL) covers most of the goods imported into Zimbabwe. This means such goods do not require import licences or permits.

As for other import goods, they will require an import licence. The entire Licencing System is administered by the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Enterprise Development.

Import Licenses

When making an application for an import license you will have to include the following details:

  • Brief company profile indicating the line of business
  • Product description
  • Tariff code
  • Quantity (tonnes, litres, metres, kg, etc.)
  • The purchase price per unit
  • Selling price per unit
  • The total value of the consignment
  • Country of origin
  • Justification for importing (why importing and not sourcing locally)

You also have to attach the following:

  • CR14 (showing company Directors)
  • Tax Clearance certificate
  • Copy of Standard Development Fund Levy receipt
  • Proforma invoice

Important To Note

When making the application you address it to the Secretary for the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Enterprise Development. When applying, you do so for different products. You cannot transfer an import license to another importer; it does not work that way. In some cases be advised that government ministries or departments might be involved when you apply for an import license. Any Ministry of Industry Commerce and Enterprise Development office near you can furnish you with the fees or charges you will have to pay. By the way, having an import license does not exempt you from complying with custom clearance procedures when the goods are passing through the border.

Import Requirements

You must take some time to meticulously plan your imports. Importing can be expensive and as such you must ensure you plan and execute right. Carefully determine your order quantities so that you enjoy economies of scale. For instance, it can be cheaper to import one bulk order e.g. a container rather than several smaller order quantities over time. Bear in mind that products can be defined differently from company to company. Be sure to closely look at that so that you avoid ambiguities that can compromise the applicability of an import license.

Foreign Suppliers

In case you are wondering where to get foreign suppliers, there are several options. You can engage or scout through trade fairs; through personal contact by social media, telephone, email and meetings; through market research using primary or secondary data sources; through buyers and sellers meetings, some organised by ZimTrade; through foreign embassies in Zimbabwe; through Zimbabwean embassies abroad; and from suppliers/exporters directories. Always do your due diligence before importing to ascertain how legit, reputable, and efficient a supplier is.

A supplier’s roles and responsibilities can be summarized as follows, confirming receipt of the order; applying for all necessary permits to be able to export; preparing all necessary export documentation and customs clearance; agreeing with you on the mode of transport and dispatch date of the goods; sending you a full set of export documents as soon as they are ready; depending on the terms of purchase, arranging for transport, insurance, and the like; and loading and dispatching the goods and advise of the same.

Delivered Cost Of Imported Products

Quotations do vary from supplier to supplier. However, some of the common items included in them are production cost, cost of packaging, cost of freight, handling costs, insurance, duties, input tax, surtax, and customs clearing agents charges, amongst possible others. When all that is summed you get the total imported price commonly known as the total landed cost.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) developed a set of standards called Terms of Purchase, entitled Incoterms. These are a ready-made set of agreements which dictate the exact responsibilities of both parties entering a cross-border transaction. You must take time to acquaint yourself with it so that understand who is responsible for what on the above-mentioned cost items.

Moving Goods

In moving goods, it is wise to let the supplier arrange the shipment of your goods. They are better placed and more familiar with their home turf than you. If you wish to make the arrangements yourself then be prepared to handle the packing of the goods for shipping; organising shipping as well as processes and procedures thereof, and insurance of the goods during transit.

Getting Goods Through The Border

This is the last lap but tends to be the most complex and demanding. Specialist knowledge will be pertinent and that is why you will need a Customs Clearing Agent. They will know how to guide you accordingly on all the requirements and procedures.  The Customs Clearing Agent’s charge is an average of 2 per cent of the CIF value of the goods.

Some of the documentation required is a Bill of Entry (Form 21), Suppliers’ invoices, Export or Transit Bill of Entry from the country of export (where applicable), Bill of Lading (where applicable), Value Declaration Forms, Rail Advice Note, Freight statements, Port Charges Invoices (where applicable), Agent/Importer’s Worksheet, Original Permits, Licences, Duty-Free Certificates, Rebate Letters, Value Rulings (where applicable), Copy of Tax Clearance Certificate (ITF 263) should be attached, and Certificate of Origin (CoO) (where goods are being imported under a Preferential Trade Agreement and qualify for zero or reduced customs duty).

It should go without saying but I must emphasise it; always endeavour to avoid shortcuts. I appreciate the processes can be demanding but it is best to follow due process. The cost and inconveniences that can arise from being prosecuted for wrongdoing will not be worth it. For more information, you can get in touch with ZimTrade. It is the national trade development and promotion organization, which is a unique joint venture partnership between the Private Sector and the Government of Zimbabwe.