By Drazen Jorgic
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya said it would introduce a single electronic system for processing imports and exports on Friday, replacing a mountain of forms and paper bureaucracy blamed for holding up trade.
Entrepreneurs currently have to trek around up to 24 government agencies to get the permits and pay the levies, fees, duties and taxes they need to get goods across borders.
"When a parcel arrives (at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport), it takes about five days to remove it. I think this is unacceptable," said Alex Kabuga, chief executive of the state Kenya Trade Network Agency which will run the new system.
The new Kenya National Electronic Single Window System (KNESWS) would let people fill out all the forms they needed on one website, he added.
Kenya is the main gateway to east Africa, through its deepwater Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, but traders say it takes too long to get goods cleared and permit-related delays ramp up costs.
The World Bank ranks Kenya 129 out 189 countries for ease of doing business, some way behind regional rival and trading partner Rwanda, ranked 32nd.
Kabuga told journalists on Wednesday he was particularly concerned about Kenya's rating when it came to trading across borders - the World Bank puts it in 159th place.
"When investors see these kinds of things, they say this is not the kind of place where we want to invest because these delays are expensive," he said.
Average times to process cargoes at Mombasa should fall from eight days to three, while it should take 24 hours to clear goods at the international airport, he added.
KNESWS officials believe it will also reduce corruption by cutting out manual payments of fees.
(Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Heavens)