Archives For Botswana

banner4Transport Forex, created by Inter Africa Bureau de Change, a registered bureau de change with the South African Reserve Bank has created an unique online banking system for the transport industry.

With branches at all of South African border posts, the company has expanded operations into Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, the DRC and Tanzania with offices on all the major border posts between these countries.

Transport Forex is an online ordering system where the transport manager can deposit money in South Africa into the relevant account therefore ensuring when drivers arrive at the relevant border posts there is enough money for them to pay the relevant duties. At the same time, this ensures enough cash is in the account for drivers to purchase fuel at key petrol stations or even pay for a service on-route in one of the partner countries.

Once the monies have been deposited into the account, an order number is sent via SMS to the driver who then presents it at the relevant Transport Forex office to draw the necessary funds required.

In the same way you can book and pay for diesel for your truck on any of the major transport routes in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, the DRC and Tanzania. Transport Forex has negotiated with partner fuel suppliers for better prices and passes this discount directly to the transport company.

A new Payment Service was introduced in 2013 for clients. Should additional unforeseen funds be required for an emergency while the driver is on the road then monies can be made available for drivers almost immediately. This prevents valuable time from being lost.

Transport Forex is also in negotiations with several government institutions so relevant duties and taxes for operators’trucks can also be paid through the system in advance.

To join Transport Forex simply log onto www.transportforex.co.za, and click on “Create Account”. Registration is free, and there are no monthly charges.

Southern_Africa_Panorama_MapSouth Africa is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu), which consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS), the oldest customs union in Africa but apart from this prestige, is Sacu worth the time?

In an article by Professor Roman Grynberg, he asked whether Sacu is a “dead man walking?” and I wish to follow-up on this. A recent article appearing on the World Bank’s website states that even if poor countries are neighbours, it is often more difficult for them to trade with each other than it is for them to trade with distant countries that are wealthy.

The Sacu agreement is principally about the issue of distributing customs revenue earned by the five members on their international trade with other countries. The distribution of this revenue is based on each country’s share of intra-Sacu imports and so favours the smaller members.

South Africa, for example, imports very little from within the region and so ends up paying the BLNS about R15bn to R18bn per year more than it would if Sacu did not exist.

If we are paying R15bn to R18bn per annum to be in a union with questionable benefits, why do we not exit the agreement?

For one, the SADC free trade agreement which was implemented in 2008, gives South Africa a “get out of jail free card” through providing South African exports similar but not identical market access to that available under Sacu.

We could thus “walk away from Sacu at any moment, save R15bn to R18bn and South African exports would still continue to flow across the Limpopo basin in more or less the same uninterrupted way.” (Grynberg, 2014).

Another reason, according to Grynberg, is that an “economic catastrophe” may result if South Africa exits. Swaziland and Lesotho are between 60% to 70% dependent on the Sacu for revenues, Botswana and Namibia are somewhat less dependent at 30% to 40%.

I feel though that this may be the very same reason that there will not be a major reform of the revenue-sharing formula. Would you want to cede even a third of your income?

So what should South Africa do? I think it is firstly important to note that of our SADC neighbours, South Africa earns the most from its exports to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique – none of which is in the Sacu.

This is perhaps not surprising when considering the findings of the World Bank and realising that nearly all of South Africa’s top trading partners are in the northern hemisphere.

The BLNS countries, interestingly enough, fall in the bottom 5 of our SADC trade partners and so should we worry so much about an “economic catastrophe” in the BLNS when they don’t buy our goods in any case?

What it comes down to, I feel, is that South Africa needs to play hard ball. By this I mean South Africa needs to be committed to actually exiting the Sacu agreement because it is only when the BLNS realise that we are serious and that there is the real threat of them losing 30% to 70% of their revenue that they will agree to a new revenue-sharing formula. After all, something is better than nothing. Source: Fin24

Related ‘must read’ articles

AmatiThirty-one countries belong currently to the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries: 15 are located in Africa, 12 in Asia, 2 in Latin America and 2 in Central and Eastern Europe. The lack of territorial access to the sea poses persistent challenges to growth and development of these countries and has been the main factor hindering their ability to better integrate in the global trading system. The transit of export and import goods through the territory of at least one neighboring State and the frequent change of mode of transport result in high transaction costs and reduced international competitiveness.

For more details on LLDCs visit - Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs)

The 2003 Almaty Programme of Action highlighted the link between the ability of LLDCs to harness their trade potential and the state of the transport infrastructure and the efficiency of trade facilitation measures in neighboring transit countries and called for international support in favor of LLDCs. The United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 66/214 of 22 December 2011 and resolution 67/222 of 3 April 2013 decided to hold a Comprehensive Ten-Year Review Conference of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2014 with a view to formulating and adopting a renewed development partnership framework for LLDCs for the next decade.

It is expected that the ten-year review will provide an opportunity for: (i) assessing progress made in establishing efficient transit transport systems in landlocked developing countries since the adoption of APoA in August 2003, and particularly after the midterm review of 2008; and (ii) agreeing on actions needed to sustain achievements and address challenges in overcoming the special problems of landlocked developing countries around the world.

It would appear that this programme very much supports the creation of inland ports connected to the seaports by means of secure and bonded facilities – within the ambit international law, i.e. WTO (Trade Facilitation Agreement) and the WCO (Revised Kyoto Convention). The question arises as to whether an inland port located in Botswana, Zimbabwe or any adjoining country be able to demand such rights where a ‘corridor’ country or country providing international seaport access to LLDCs does not observe or accept international transit principles?

Related articles
South Africa has been courting major player Botswana’s support for changes to SACU.

South Africa has been courting major player Botswana’s support for changes to SACU. (Mail & Guardian)

The Mail & Guardian reveals that South Africa has requested an urgent meeting with members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) for as early as ­February next year in what could be a make-or-break conference for the struggling union.

In July this year, a clearly frustrated Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told Parliament that there had been little progress on a 2011 agreement intended to advance the region’s development integration, and it was stifling its real ­economic development.

South Africa’s payments to SACU currently amount to R48.3-billion annually – a substantial amount, considering the budget deficit is presently R146.9-billion, an estimated 4.5% of gross domestic product.

In the past, South Africa has had some room to reposition itself, but as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has pointed out, the South African fiscus has come under a lot of pressure as a result of factors such as the global slowdown, reduction in demand from countries such as China for commodities, and reduced demand from trade partners such as the European Union.

South Africa, which according to research data, last year contributed 1.26% of its GDP, or about 98% of the pool of customs and excise duties that are shared between union countries including Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia, wants a percentage of this money to be set aside for regional and industrial development.

The four countries receive 55% of the proceeds, and are greatly dependent on this money, which makes up between 25% and 60% of their budget revenue. South Africa has very little direct benefit, except when it comes to exporting to these countries. It receives few imports.

Changing the revenue-sharing arrangement

Efforts to change the revenue-sharing arrangement so that money can be set aside for regional development would result in less money going into the coffers of these countries.

It would also mean that a portion of the revenue that South Africa’s SACU partners now receive with no strings attached would in future include restrictions on how it is spent.

A source close to the department said adjustments to the revenue-sharing arrangement and the promotion of regional and industrial development were issues on which the South African government was not willing to budge.

So seriously is South Africa viewing the lack of progress on the 2011 agreement, a document prepared for Cabinet discussion includes pulling out of SACU as one of its options, a source told the Mail & Guardian.

This could not be confirmed by the government, but two senior sources said South Africa was very aware of the dependence of its neighbours on income from the customs union, in particular Swaziland and Lesotho, and the impact its collapse could have on these economies.

Professor Jannie Rossouw of the University of South Africa’s department of economics believes a new revenue-sharing arrangement is essential for the long-term sustainability of SACU countries.

South Africa’s contribution

He also said that South Africa’s contribution as it presently stands should be recognised as development aid and treated as such by the international community.

Between 2002 and 2013, total transfers amounted to 0.92% of South Africa’s GDP, which exceeds the international benchmark of 0.7% set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, he said in his research.

“It is noteworthy that South Africa transfers nearly all customs collections to SACU countries. Total collection since 2002 amounted to about R249-billion, while transfers to SACU were about R242-billion,” Rossouw said. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) recognises that inclusion of trade with Sacu would have a substantial impact on South Africa’s ­official trade balance.

South Africa’s total trade deficit for 2012 was R116.9-billion and, according to SARS, had trade with the union been included, it would have been much reduced to R34.6-billion.

South Africa has budgeted to increase its allocation to SACU from R42.3-billion in the 2012-2013 financial year to R43.3-billion this financial year and in the 2014/2015 financial year.

In 2002, the SACU agreement was modified to include higher allocations for the most vulnerable countries, Swaziland and Lesotho, and it established a council of ministers, which introduced a requirement for key issues to be decided jointly. In 2011, a summit was convened by President Jacob Zuma in which a five-point plan was established to advance regional integration.

Review of the revenue-sharing arrangement

This involved a review of the revenue-sharing arrangement; prioritising regional cross-border industrial development; making cross-border trade easier; developing SACU ­institutions such as the National Bodies (entrusted with receiving requests for tariff changes) and a SACU tariff board that would eventually take over the functions of South Africa’s International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC); and the development of a unified approach to trade negotiations with third parties.

Davies told Parliament that there had been little progress in the past three years on these five issues.

Xavier Carim, the director general of the international trade division of the department of trade and industry, said there had been positive developments regarding agreements on trade negotiations, such as those with the European Union and India on trade, and progress had been made on the development of SACU institutions, but progress was slow on the other issues.

Davies told Parliament it was difficult to develop common policy among countries that varied dramatically in economic size, ­population and levels of economic, legislative and institutional development.

He cited differences over approaches to tariff settings as an example.

“South Africa views tariffs as tools of industrial policy, while for other countries tariffs are viewed as a source of revenue,” Davies said.

A proposal that cause all the problem

“A key problem that led to differences was the proposal by one member for lower tariffs to import goods from global sources that were cheapest, which ultimately undermined the industry of another member. This was primarily an issue of countries who viewed themselves as consumers rather than producers.”

The South African government is trying diplomacy as its first option. A senior government source said issues around SACU made up a large part of talks last week between Botswana and South Africa on the establishment of co-operative agreements on trade, transport and border co-operation.

Catherine Grant of the South African Institute of International Affairs said Botswana had long been considered the leader of the four countries. It would make sense for South Africa to bring Botswana on board before the meeting.

Grant said the SACU agreement needed to be re-examined and modernised.

“There needs to be a review of the revenue-sharing formula that is less opaque and is easier to understand. The present system is complicated, making it hard to work out exactly how much countries are getting. It’s clear that Rob Davies feels hamstrung by SACU and has done for some time, because decisions cannot be made without the agreement of all five members, who have different needs and requirements.”

The trade balance is one of the elements that resulted in South Africa’s current account, which has recorded significant deficits in recent months, coming in as high as 6.5% of GDP in the second quarter of 2013.

Trade between South Africa and SACU has always been recorded, but for historical reasons it has been kept separate from official international trade statistics. Source: Mail & Guradian

 

handshakeThe Southern African Customs Union (SACU) consisting of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland collaborates with the World Customs Organization (WCO) in a trade facilitation initiative funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The initiative in which also the SACU Secretariat participates, aims among others at developing a regional Preferred Trader (PT) scheme.

From 30th of September to 4th of October a core team consisting of National Project Managers, audit experts, PT-experts and site managers met in Windhoek, Namibia, with WCO experts to further prepare for the launch of the PT-scheme by developing regional processes to be applied related to the benefits selected and designed for the SACU regional PT.

The selected pilot operators have been engaged, and in the near future also the relevant cross border regulatory agencies and Customs officials at the selected border posts will be sensitized on the regional PT-scheme.

During the intense working week, all participants actively contributed to the preparations for the launch of the PT-scheme, planned for the first half of 2014. Source: www.4-traders.com

Rob Davies Frustrated with lack of progress (Business Day)

Rob Davies Frustrated with lack of progress (Business Day)

Trade & industry minister Rob Davies did not mince his words when he briefed parliament late last month on the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu), the world’s oldest. The union was formed in 1910 and comprises SA, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Exasperated, Davies complained to MPs that SA’s partners were hardly moving in the direction of harmonising trade and industrial policies. He said if this did not happen soon, the viability of Sacu itself might be called into question.

Sacu was initially formed as a colonial-era instrument to control the flow of goods into and out of the then British colonies, an arrangement that was retained with a new agreement in 1969. In essence, SA collects customs and excise revenue on behalf of all four countries and distributes 98% of all this money to the three other members as a form of aid, retaining only 2% that should accrue to itself. It is a formula that has both worked and been fraught with difficulties over the past century.

The agreement was modified with a more distributive formula in 2002 which came into effect into 2004. Under the new agreement the most vulnerable countries, Swaziland and Lesotho, would get a larger share of the excise portion.

The Sacu distributions are also the instrument through which Swaziland was to get R2,4bn in assistance from SA in 2011. Under that agreement SA would have advanced the landlocked kingdom the money from its future Sacu distributions, but it came with fiscal and technical conditions from SA.

In January 2013, Swazi finance minister Majozi Sithole said the loan arrangement was “not working out”. He complained about additional conditions set by SA before the first tranche of R800m could be paid to Swaziland.

The kingdom’s financial woes arose mainly from reduced customs and excise collections in 2010 which reflected reduced trade to and from the region. With up to 60% of Swaziland’s national budget dependent on Sacu funds, the reduction from a total pool of R27bn to just over R17bn left Swaziland cash strapped.

Though he didn’t explicitly say so in his briefing to parliament, Davies’ frustration with the Sacu arrangement was palpable. He took particular issue with the Sacu payments merely serving as a guaranteed source of revenue for the treasuries of Sacu member states. “There are no cross-border development initiatives out of the revenue collected when there are opportunities for the members to invest in joint projects,” he told parliament.

Sacu has other problems. While the 2002 agreement calls for harmonised trade and industrial policies, it also makes provision for the countries to have different fiscal and other regimes. As a consequence Sacu members’ corporate and personal income tax rates are different. This means some members realise lower internal tax revenues than they otherwise could, increasing dependency on the Sacu distributions.

A sense of entitlement has also crept into the arrangement. In a case that generally escaped media attention, in 2009 the other members asked for an international tribunal to seek arbitration on what they believed to be “short” payments from SA. The tribunal convened in the supreme court of Namibia in Windhoek.

The matters in dispute were resolved with the signing of the latest agreement in 2009, but the fundamental complaint demonstrated both the entitlement and the vulnerability of the most dependent members.

At the time SA was expected to make four quarterly distributions which were based on an estimate of revenues collected. As often happened, there was an overestimation which resulted in a payment surplus of just over R2bn, which SA deducted from future payments. This precipitated a dispute which, given the vulnerability of Swaziland and Lesotho, was almost inevitable as their entire fiscal planning for that year had been premised on the inaccurate Sacu estimates.

SA’s counsel in the hearing, Michael Kuper, argued that the arrangement was so inefficient that it forced SA to sometimes look for alternative sources of funding just to fulfil the Sacu revenue-sharing formula.

Officials of the department of trade & industry and national treasury have for some time been unhappy about the disruptive nature of the formula, given the volatility of customs revenue. Davies alluded to this in parliament, using the wild fluctuations in revenue before, during and after the global financial crisis.

Now Davies wants the union to shape up or make a decision on its future. He told parliament that Sacu had to live up to the outcomes of its second summit, held in 2011, where member states undertook to work on cross-border industrial development, development of Sacu institutions, unified engagement in trade negotiations and a review of the revenue-sharing arrangements.

As if to emphasise its historical and present inertia, Davies said that not much work had advanced in this regard – such as the formation of national tariff bodies, a Sacu tariff board, common antitrust regulations and co-operation in agriculture.

“Some members have proposed that the Sacu tariff board be formed even if the states’ national tariff boards have not been formalised yet,” he said, in an indication that some of the members do not have the technical wherewithal to install the necessary institutions.

Lesotho and Swaziland in particular are hampered by structural economic difficulties, including low prospects for meaningful economic growth and reliance on external aid. A recent IMF report on Lesotho complimented the new government on its fiscal discipline and recommended further aid. It also noted new measures to improve supervision over the financial and other sectors.

As Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy, known for its profligate spending on the comforts of its king, Swaziland remains a political hot potato which has increased pressure on the SA government to attach conditions to any assistance given. Though written in diplomatic language, the 2011 IMF report on Swaziland also listed a number of areas that needed strengthening.

It recommended the cutting of public-sector wages to ease fiscal pressures, a decision that brought the kingdom to the brink of instability, precipitating the appeal to SA for help. MPs raised the Swaziland loan issue with Davies, demonstrating the internal and regional political difficulties of the arrangement.

While SA remains determined to assert its voice over its junior partners in Sacu, it still has to tread carefully lest it be seen as a bully. Providing some cover have been the conditions set by the IMF before Swaziland can receive further assistance. Some of these common conditions include the protection of the peg between the Swazi ilangeni and the rand, the implementation of a fiscal adjustment roadmap and a prioritisation of social spending over the reported excesses of King Mswati III.

Early this month Australian newspapers reported the arrival of several of King Mswati’s queens and their aides in Australia on an apparent shopping trip. It is such extravagance that has put both SA and the kingdom in a difficult position – the former in its internal political environment and the latter through the loss of credibility with international development finance institutions.

It now appears that SA is choosing the route of common economic development over the aid-like structure of the Sacu payments. It remains to be seen whether the partners will be in a position to make good on Davies’ intentions or keep talking as the member states have been doing for over a decade. Source: Financial Mail

tralacZimbabwe is a landlocked developing country with a population of 14 million, sharing common borders with Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia. Zimbabwe has 14 border posts, varying in size in accordance with the volume of traffic passing through them. Beitbridge, the only border post with South Africa, is the largest and busiest, owing to the fact that it is the gateway to the sea for most countries along the North-South Corridor. Zimbabwe thus provides a critical trade link between several countries in the southern African regions. The need for the country, especially its border posts, to play a trade facilitative role can therefore not be over-emphasised.

Trade facilitation has become an important issue on the multilateral, regional and Zimbabwean trade agendas, and with it, border management efficiency. Border management concerns the administration of borders. Border agencies are responsible for the processing of people and goods at points of entry and exit, as well as for the detection and regulation of people and goods attempting to cross borders illegally. Efficient border management requires the cooperation of all border management agencies and such cooperation can only be achieved if proper coordination mechanisms, legal framework and institutions are established.

This study explores how border agencies in Zimbabwe operate and cooperate in border management. The objectives of the study were to:

  • Identify agencies involved in border management in Zimbabwe;
  • Analyse the scope of their role/involvement in border management; and
  • Review domestic policy and legislation (statutes of these agencies) specifically to identify the legal provisions that facilitate cooperation among them.

Visit the Tralac Trade Law website to download the study.

Source: TRALAC

sezFree zones are often seen as a cure-all remedy to the problems developing economies encounter when trying to attract FDI. However, the reality is that such projects need careful planning and long-term support if they are to fulfil such wishes. A report published by fDI Magazine, and featured online – fdiintelligence.com – covers the topic quite comprehensively. While the article it is titled ‘Free Zones’ it’s not quite certain whether all developments sited follow the same business model. Nonetheless it provides some interesting insight to developments across the globe. Of particular interest for Africa are references to developments in Rwanda, Botswana, and the Gambia. In the case of the latter, the Gambian government’s decision to legally enable companies to operate as standalone zones, whereby businesses are permitted to enjoy the benefits of being a ‘free zone’ entity without having to establish in the country’s business park, could enable Gambia to attract investors who wish to have a greater degree of choice over the location of their premises.

Some of the key messages of the article come in the form of cautionary’s –

“the ‘build it and they will come’ assumption over SEZs will not guarantee investor interest”

“while governments are quick to launch them with great fanfare, a lack of on-going support afterwards hinders the zone from developing to a competitive and world-class standard…many projects remain just that – a project”

“while the idea of clustering several companies from a few specific sectors sounds promising on paper, in practice this can be detrimental to foreign enterprises”.

Read the full report here!

Enforcement, Risk Management and Preferred Trade come together in the SACU Region

Enforcement, Risk Management and Preferred Trade come together in the SACU Region

A WCO workshop on the topics of Enforcement, Risk Management and Preferred Trader was conducted in April in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the involvement of the WCO Secretariat, UK Customs and the member countries of the Southern African Customs Union - SACU (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland). Capacity Building in the mentioned areas in the SACU Region is part of the WCO Sub-Saharan Customs Capacity Building Programme financed by the Swedish Government through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA.

An assessment including lessons learned was conducted concerning Operation Auto, targeted at second hand motor vehicles. This first ever regional enforcement operation in the 102 years of history of SACU presented good results as around 250 vehicles were seized by the Customs administrations. The Regional Intelligence Liaison Office contributed actively in the assessment process, ensuring that also future enforcement operations will benefit from the experiences gained.

The development of further risk management capacity is ongoing at the regional level and discussions were held concerning the establishment of common risk profiles. A number of high risk products have been identified and the formulation of profiles to engage illegal trade in these areas is ongoing.

Regarding the Preferred Trader program, progress can also be reported as SACU Members are approaching implementation at operational level. This project component fits very well with the risk management component as the latter is the foundation of the Preferred Trader approach. The process of selecting high compliant, low risk economic operators for the upcoming pilot scheme is well underway while capacity in verification and post clearance audit is being enhanced. A launch of (a pilot of) the regional Preferred Trade program is tentatively envisaged for the second half of 2013. Source: WCO

2nd hand carsThe New Era (Windhoek) reports that Botswana has tightened the screws on the importation of second-hand vehicle older than five years, effectively removing the loophole exploited by Namibian motorists to import such vehicles.

Botswana’s customs, the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), is now enforcing the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) agreement that prohibits the registration of imported second-hand vehicles older than five years. Previously Namibian traders in imported second-hand cars would register vehicles in Botswana, from where they would enter Namibia as Botswana registered vehicles instead of imported vehicles.

The process had made it easy to register such cars in Namibia and in other SACU member states, which prohibit the registration of imported vehicles older than five years.

“BURS, in the spirit of good neighbourliness and adherence to the provision of the SACU agreement, wishes to assist Namibia in curtailing the irregularities prevalent in the movement of second-hand vehicles through the two countries,” reads a statement from the Namibian Ministry of Finance’s customs that relayed the decision by the Botswana customs authorities.

However, ingenious Namibian traders in second-hand vehicles told New Era yesterday that the decision by Botswana customs is simply a temporary deterrent as they are now considering using Swaziland’s leniency on the matter to circumvent the very same SACU provisions. Besides the SACU provisions, Angola – a non-SACU member – has also banned the importation of second-hand vehicles older than five years. Second-hand vehicle imports contributed at least N$150 million to the economy during 2012, with a record 20 000 vehicles recorded.

Some of the vehicles have also gone through to neighbouring countries. South Africa does not allow imported second-hand vehicles older than five years to drive on its road network. Importers of such cars are forced to load vehicles on trucks or use the port of Walvis Bay. To register the cars in Namibia, the traders would take the vehicles to Botswana where they would be registered for a short period of time and bring them back to Namibia as Botswana registered vehicles.

The process enables the cars to be registered on the Namibian vehicle registration system, which ordinarily would not allow the cars to be registered for local use within SACU states. Botswana customs says persons attempting to circumvent the SACU provisions would be subject to a fine of P40 000 (N$44 579.85) or three times the value of the vehicles or imprisonment of not more than ten years. Source: New Era

Simple solution – SACU countries should unilaterally invoke the prohibition on the importation and registration of second-hand motor vehicles at all external borders of the customs union. Is it not time for the member states to act for once like a custom union?

TKCThe first live demonstration of an end-to-end customs connectivity solution was successfully completed in Windhoek, Namibia on December 12, 2012. Customs Connectivity enables customs administrations from different countries to share information seamlessly and instantly across borders: reducing processing time and improving access to reliable, real-time trade statistics.

The demonstration was witnessed by the Commissioners of Botswana (BURS) and Namibia Customs (NRA), senior managers and operational teams. The demonstration involved moving information from an ASYCUDA++ entry in Botswana via the Cloud-based User Portal to an ASYCUDA++ entry in Namibia, and vice-versa from Namibia to Botswana. It demonstrated how clearing agents/traders would manage the flow of their information via the secure online User Portal.

The demonstration marked a “watershed moment” in turning Customs Connectivity into reality. The next steps for the pilot project include full system testing and documentation before end-user training commences. Full implementation is scheduled to take place during the first half of 2013.

Customs Connectivity offers countries in the region a historic opportunity to engage cutting-edge technology and modern tools to facilitate trade throughout Southern Africa, enhancing economic growth and promoting food security. The pilot project is being implemented by Botswana and Namibia, supported by the USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub. Source: SATH

Request – Perhaps some of the TKC clearing agents, NRA and BURS customs staff would like to comment on their experience thus far? 

Corruption Perceptions Index 2012Twelve African countries are ranked among the 75 least corrupt nations in the world, according to the 2012 index published Wednesday by Transparency International. Published annually, the Corruption Perceptions Index draws upon a range of data sources to determine how corrupt countries’ public sectors are perceived to be. On a scale from 100 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt), two-thirds of all countries scored below 50.

The top eight in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in 2012 also led the list in 2011, with approximately the same global rankings, ranging from 65 to 43. Liberia – at number 11 in sub-Sahara with a score of 41 – saw its global ranking rise 16 points – from number 91 last year to 75 in 2012.

Botswana, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Rwanda, Namibia, Ghana and Lesotho led the SSA rankings, along with South Africa, which dropped two places this year – to nine from seven. Gambia, which was ninth last year, dropped this year to 21 in SSA and 105 globally. Tunisia, which is grouped with Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, is tied with Liberia at 75 on the global rankings. Crowding the bottom among the most corrupt in the world are Chad, Sudan and Somalia. For more information visit – www.cpi.transparency.org

Below is a situation which might have been avoided if trader registration/licensing was properly addressed by the Namibian Authorities. With the likes of SADC and COMESA encouraging the implementation of regional transit guarantees, trade operators need to clearly address their obligations and liabilities. Moreover, any suggestion of authorised economic operator (AEO) programme in the Southern African region needs to fully align its requirements with the standards being applied by other countries across the globe. It is therefore clear that no preferred trader scheme can be implemented across the Trans-Kalahari Corridor or across SACU if such disparities of knowledge and practice exist. While one might have compassion for possible job redundancies and the pleas expressed by certain clearing agents, they evidently do not understand the game they are playing in and will drastically need to redress their understanding of the role they play in the supply chain. International clearing and forwarding is not a game for sissies, or people who want to try their hand at a quick buck. A bold stance by the Ministry of Finance.

The Namibian Ministry of Finance’s decision to ban clearing agents from using guarantees and bonds from third parties as security to move goods has caused an uproar among clearing agents. The Deputy Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, explained that the decision that became effective on July 26 was taken to protect the taxpayer. Clearing agents aren’t closed down, and neither are they stopped from using their own security to move these goods, he said. As from July 26, the agents are simply not allowed to use a bond or guarantee issued to another clearing agent as security for their goods in transit, the ministry said.

Before the clampdown, clearing agent A used to ‘borrow’ guarantees or bonds, backed by financial or other institutions from clearing agent B to clear any goods coming through Namport and destined for landlocked countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, should a problem develop with agent A’s consignment, the guarantee or bond would be worthless to Government, as the financial institution agreed to back only agent B’s guarantee or bond. “We don’t know how or when the practice started, but it is illegal,” a ministry spokesperson said.,

Schlettwein said Government stood to lose out on duties and customs through the practice, and the taxpayers would have ended up having to pick up the tab. The ministry’s announcement was met with considerable protest from the smaller clearing agencies, claiming that they didn’t have the money or financial backing to secure the necessary bonds or guarantees. Nampa reported that 76 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating as clearing agencies at the coast have been affected. At the Oshikango border post and at Helao Nafidi in the North, 30 agencies with more than 100 employees are affected.

Regina Amupolo of Pride Clearing and Forwarding Agent has called on the ministry to urgently look into this matter, because many trucks with goods and containers are stuck at the Oshikango border post, Walvis Bay harbour or at other border posts. Their customers have already complained that they are losing business because of this, Amupolo said. Amupolo said most SMEs don’t have the money to obtain bonds or guarantees. She said ministry officials said anyone who wants a bond must have collateral of N$1,6 million. “We are small business people, trying to employ ourselves and some of our fellow men and women in our societies, but now the Government, the Ministry of Finance, is making things difficult for us. How are we going to make a living if the ministry is cutting off our jobs in this way?” she asked.

In a letter written to all clearing agents at Oshikango, the controller customs and excise officer, Festus Shidute, said the practice of using third-party bonds or guarantees posed a serious challenge to customs administration and control of guarantees in the event of liabilities by third parties. Amupolo and Rejoice Nangolo from Flora Clearing Agent said they have already paid N$20 000 to obtain a clearing licence, while they have to pay Namport another N$20 000. She said they are losing thousands of dollars as a result of this unexpected prohibition by the ministry and are demanding an extension to allow them to take the matter up with the ministry.

Nangolo said her business has branches at other border posts like Omahenene, Katwitwi, Ngoma, Wenela, Trans-Kalahari, Ariamsvlei, Noordoewer, Walvis Bay, Hosea Kutako International Airport and Oshikango. Her Angolan customers have threatened to stop moving their goods through Namibia and only to use their own ports, she said. At Oshikango there are only two big companies, Piramund and CRN, that can guarantee bonds and assist them as SMEs clearing their work effectively. According to Amupolo and Nangolo, they started with their clearing business in Oshikango in 2000 and were doing well until the ministry imposed the ban.

Speaking to Nampa, Lunomukumo Taanyanda of Oluvanda Clearing and Forwarding Close Corporation (OCFCC) said his company has been operational for two years and deals mostly with car consignments from countries such as the United Kingdom (UK) and Dubai.Before clearing the consignments, OCFCC has to declare the consignment at the Namport customs desk. However, before they can fill in a customs declaration form to clear the transit goods, the goods need to be secured and this is where the company (OCFCC) requires the assistance of third parties such as Wesbank Transport, Transworld Cargo and Woker Freight Services.

These smaller companies acquire assistance from bigger companies (the third parties) as they experience problems when trying to obtain their own bonds and guarantees. According to Taanyanda, it is a very costly and time-consuming process. “We agents do not have enough collateral for bonds, which start at N$350 000, and now the ministry has stopped us from borrowing bonds from third parties,” he said. Source: The Namibian

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http://www.namibian.com.na/news/marketplace/full-story/archive/2012/august/article/clearing-agents-want-answers-today/

Yes, you’ll be forgiven if you thought this was some belated April-fools joke. South Africa has been accused of frustrating plans to create a regional customs union and instead preferring to bolster the South African Customs Union (Sacu), where it holds sway. 

A customs union is a trade agreement by which a group of countries charge a common set of tariffs to the rest of the world, while granting free trade among members. Regional Integration minister, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said there was a feeling that South Africa wanted to use Sacu as its basis to form a regional customs union, instead of working towards creating a new one.

“What we see is that South Africa wants to use Sacu as the basis for forming a regional customs union and sometimes, this is viewed as having a big brother mentality,” she said. Misihairabwi-Mushonga said, for this reason, negotiations towards a holistic Southern African Customs Union (Sadc) had not gone very far. Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa make up Sacu, with the four countries having benefited by aligning themselves to South Africa, Africa’s largest economy. A Sadc customs union would involve the 15 countries of the region, instead of Sacu, which is considered narrow.

But Catherine Grant, the head of economic diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs, reckons the smaller nations in Sacu, like Lesotho, may be opposed to Sacu morphing into a regional customs union. “This will be opposed by other Sacu members, not necessarily just South Africa, as this (Sacu) is not just a trade agreement, but involves a broader range of economic issues,” she said.

“Up to 60% of the Lesotho budget is Sacu revenue, so the vested issues, whether Sacu is the basis of a customs union, are not just South African.” Grant felt that it was impossible to expand Sacu in its current form, as it would cost South Africa too much and would dilute the resources that were meant for other projects.

The head of the trade and policy think-tank said instead, South Africa preferred to see the implementation of a free trade area (FTA) as a first step, since customs union negotiations were usually lengthy and time-consuming. “The preference is to first channel scarce resources to existing commitments and trying to make them as beneficial as possible,” she explained.

Grant said while South Africa was the dominant player in the region, hence engendering a feeling that it was imposing itself as the big brother, the country was actually holding back from taking a leading role and this cost the region.

“Sometimes South Africa holds back because they are conscious of not being a big brother and that could be detrimental to the region,” she explained. However, Grant said energies should be directed towards the conclusion of negotiations to set up the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which includes the Common Market for East and Southern Africa, the East African Community and Sadc.

“The TFTA will resolve some of the overlapping issues that can be difficult to solve when it comes to a customs union,” she said. Since Zimbabwe adopted multicurrencies in 2009, there has been a call that the nation either join Sacu or push for the formation of a regional customs union. Zimbabwe remains wary of joining Sacu, as it fears for its economic independence, yet negotiations for a regional customs union are moving at a snail’s pace.

Sacu was established in 1910, making it the world’s oldest customs union. It consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. Source: AllAfrica.com

From April 12-13, Southern African Trade Hub (aka USAID) presented Single Window as a cutting-edge tool for trade facilitation to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Finance, Customs and other private sector organizations, explaining how a NSW for Namibia could improve the Trading Across Borders index ranking, which currently stands at 142 out of 183 countries. Single Window is a crucial instrument that will eliminate inefficiency and ineffectiveness in business and government procedures and document requirements along the international supply chain, reduce trade transaction costs, as well as improve border control, compliance, and security.

Benefits for Government: A Single Window will lead to a better combination of existing governmental systems and processes, while at the same time promoting a more open and facilitative approach to the way in which governments operate and communicate with business. Traders will submit all the required information and documents through a single entity, more effective systems will be established for a quicker and more accurate validation and distribution of this information to all relevant government agencies. This will also result in better coordination and cooperation between the Government and regulatory authorities involved in trade-related activities.

Benefits for trade: The main benefit for the trading community is that a Single Window will provide the trader with a single point for the one-time submission of all required information and documentation to all governmental agencies involved in export, import or transit procedures. As the Single Window enables governments to process submitted information, documents and fees both faster and more accurately, traders would benefit from faster clearance and release times, enabling them to speed up the supply chain. In addition, the improved transparency and increased predictability would further reduce the potential for corrupt behaviour from both the public and private sector.

If the Single Window functions as a focal point for the access to updated information on current trade rules, regulations and compliance requirements, it will lower the administrative costs of trade transactions and encourage greater trader compliance. The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Industry and Trade underscored the need for Namibia to proceed with the Single Window concept, and advised participants that his Ministry, together with the Ministry of Finance, would jointly package the Single Window concept and submit it to Cabinet for Government approval.

In Southern Africa, Mauritius already has an effective Single Window, which is reflected in its “Trading Across Borders” ranking of 21. Mozambique recently launched its pilot Single Window. SATH will support and facilitate the processes for the establishment of a Botswana National Single Window system to streamline cross border trade. The current SATH Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) Cloud Computing Connectivity program, which is being piloted between Botswana and Namibia, provides an ideal technology platform for linking Botswana and Namibia Single Windows, leveraging the investment by BURS, Namibia Customs and SATH to date in the development of this system. SATH is currently in the process of gauging support for National Single Window in South Africa.

Excuse my cynicism, but the SA Trade HUB  has yet to demonstrate the viability of its Cloud Computing solution between Namibia and Botswana Customs. What is reported above is the usual sweet and fluffy adjectives which accompany most international customs and trade ICT offerings, ignoring prerequisite building blocks upon which concepts such as Cloud and Single Window may prove beneficial and effective. Past project failures in Africa are usually blamed on the target country in not bedding down or embracing the new process/solution – never the vendor. Given the frequency of technology offerings being presented by donor agencies on unwitting national states, there seems little foreign interest in ‘bedding down’ or ‘knowledge transfer’ than the ‘delivery of expensive technology’.

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