Archives For Africa

Abalone Shells

Oxpeckers’ environmental investigative journalist, Crystal Chow,  digs up the dirt on the illicit abalone trade.

Abalone tops the list of the most exquisite seafood in Chinese cuisine, and fresh South African abalone are always the first choice for feasts in Cantonese restaurants, where one fresh abalone alone can cost up to HK$2,000 (about R3,000). In recent years, the overfishing and smuggling of wild abalone has pushed this endemic species of the South African coast towards extinction.

“The South African wild abalone are heavier, and they are better than the farmed Japanese and Australian ones in terms of fresh flavour and texture,” said Chit-yu Lau, general manager of Ah Yat Abalones restaurant in Hong Kong. “Our fresh South African abalone are all imported through legitimate channels. The smuggled ones are usually dried, and are rare in Hong Kong.”

Nonetheless, the illicit abalone trade has been gathering significant attention from conservationists combating wildlife trafficking, who believe the profitable contraband market of abalone is linked to the black market of ivory and rhino horns – both of which are driven by high demand from the Chinese market. To read the full story Click here!

Source: oxpeckers.org, author – Chow. C, June 9, 2017.

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Chamber of Mines

The report claimed there was widespread misinvoicing in primary commodities in developing countries, including South Africa.

The Chamber of Mines on Tuesday called on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to withdraw its report on trade misinvoicing and acknowledge its shortcomings, saying that the prestigious agency had failed to collect its data accurately.

This comes after the Chamber released the third and final report in a series commissioned to examine the July 2016 UNCTAD report that claimed there was widespread misinvoicing in primary commodities in developing countries, including South Africa.

Also read Maya Forestater’s blog post Misinvoicing or misunderstanding? for an incisive explanation regarding the UN’s claims in its recent report Trade Misinvoicing in Primary Commodities in Developing Countries.

The UNCTAD report titled “Trade Misinvoicing in Primary Commodities in Developing Countries: The cases of Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia”, claimed to have found widespread under-invoicing which, it alleged, was designed by commodities producers to evade tax and other entitlements due to the fiscal authorities.

UNCTAD said some commodity dependent developing countries were losing as much as 67 percent of their exports worth billions of dollars to trade misinvoicing.

For South Africa, the report calculated cumulative under-invoicing over the period 2000-2014 to have amounted to U.S.$102.8 billion; which was U.S.$620 million for iron ore, U.S.$24 billion for silver and platinum, and U.S.$78.2 billion for gold.

UNCTAD revised the report in December, though its fundamentals remained unchanged.

The Chamber of Mines also commissioned Eunomix to compile its own reports which were published in December and February respectively, focusing on UNCTAD’s gold scenarios.

The third report, which was published on Tuesday, deals with the other commodities.

The Chamber said in terms of gold, the UNCTAD study methodology compared reported exports by product and country of destination with the reported imports of the products by those same countries, and did not use other widely available data, including that of Statistics SA and the Reserve Bank.

The Chamber also dismissed all other UNCTAD findings in terms of silver and platinum, and iron ore.

The Chamber said all the factors that UNCTAD did not consider reinforced the point made in the earlier Eunomix reports regarding the lack of rigour and unreliable methodologies used in UNCTAD’s report.

“This is extremely unfortunate given the levels of credence that tend to be given to reports of this UN agency. Accusations of extensive misinvoicing and other illicit financial flows are feeding a growing lack of trust between key stakeholders in the mining industry,” the Chamber said.

“The Chamber of Mines again calls on UNCTAD to withdraw this report and acknowledge its shortcomings.” Source: The Citizen, Business News, 22 Aug, 2017. [Picture: Chamber of Mines]

AGOA States-GAO

“Is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) always a poisoned chalice from the United States of America?”, asks an editorial in The East African. The Kenya newspaper suggests it appeared to be so after the US allowed a petition that could see Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda lose their unlimited opening to its market.

This follows the US Trade Representative assenting last week to an appeal by Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, a used clothes lobby, for a review of the three countries’ duty-free, quota-free access to the country for their resolve to ban importation of used clothes, the The East African continues.

The US just happens to be the biggest source of used clothes sold in the world. Some of the clothes are recycled in countries like Canada and Thailand before being shipped to markets mostly in the developing world.

In East Africa, up to $125 million is spent on used clothes annually, a fifth of them imported directly from the US and the bulk from trans-shippers including Canada, India, the UAE, Pakistan, Honduras and Mexico.

The East Africa imports account for 22 percent of used clothes sold in Africa. Suspending the three countries from the 2000 trade affirmation would leave them short of $230 million in foreign exchange that they earn from exports to the US.

That would worsen the trade balance, which is already $80 million in favour of the US. In trade disputes, numbers do not tell the whole story. Agoa now appears to have been caught up in the nationalism sweeping across the developed world and Trumponomics.

US lobbies have been pushing for tough conditions to be imposed since it was enacted, including the third country rule of origin which would require that apparel exports be made from local fabric.

The rule, targeted at curbing China’s indirect benefits from Agoa through fabric sales, comes up for a legislative review in 2025, making it prudent for African countries to prepare for the worst. Whether that comes through a ban or phasing out of secondhand clothing (the wording that saved Kenya from being listed for a review) is immaterial.

What is imperative is that African countries have to be resolute in promoting domestic industries. In textiles and leather, for instance, that effort should include on-farm incentives for increasing cotton, hides and skins output, concessions for investments in value-adding plants like ginneries and tanneries and market outlets for local textile and shoe companies.

The world over, domestic markets provide the initial motivation for production before investors venture farther afield. Import bans come in handy when faced with such low costs of production in other countries that heavy taxation still leaves those products cheaper than those of competitors in the receiving countries.

The US has also been opposed to heavy taxation of used clothes, which buyers say are of better quality and more durable. For Kenya to be kept out of the review, it had to agree to reduce taxes on used apparel.

These factors have left Agoa beneficiaries in a no-win situation: Damned if you ban, damned if you do not. With their backs to the wall, beneficiaries like Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda have to think long term in choosing their industrial policies and calling the US bluff.

Beneficiaries must speak with one voice to effectively guard against trade conditions that over time hamper domestic industrial growth. Source: The East African, Picture: US GAO

CBPSARS3

The U.S. Embassy in South Africa’s office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) donated border enforcement equipment and tools to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) at their K-9 facility in Kempton Park today. The equipment will be utilized in support SARS’ efforts to safeguard the borders in South Africa. The donation, valuing more than $105,000, includes vehicle GPS units, field binoculars, night vision goggles, handheld thermal imagers, radiation detector/pagers, and contraband detection kits.

The donation is a part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s longstanding partnership with the government of South Africa to support border security, trade facilitation and combat wildlife trafficking. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Jessye Lapenn said, “Following South Africa’s success in hosting the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016, we are delighted to support your continued efforts. This equipment will be used to help conserve your incredibly diverse wildlife species, promote economic development, and combat the multi-billion dollar illicit wildlife trade within your borders, across our borders, and globally. I am proud of the great work our South African and American teams have done together on these issues. Together, we are making a difference.”

An executive for Customs at SARS said, “from the South African perspective, we acknowledge and receive these ‘tools of the trade’ from the United States with gratitude. This donation will strengthen our long-lasting relationship with the United States, which has been assisting us since the 1990s. Our work together has helped us improve our fight against the illicit economy.”

With more than 60,000 employees, CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade. As the United States’ first unified border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity. The men and women of CBP are responsible for enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations. On a typical day, CBP welcomes nearly one million visitors, screens more than 67,000 cargo containers, arrests more than 1,100 individuals, and seizes nearly six tons of illicit drugs. Annually, CBP facilitates an average of more than $3 trillion in legitimate trade while enforcing U.S. trade laws.

Source:  APO on behalf of U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

WCO Transit GuidelinesYes, the info junkie I am – this is what I was really after! The WCO chose to delay the real stuff. The WCO has published its Transit Guidelines, and a substantial compendium its is. Click here to access/download the file (5,4MB)! The WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, has noted the possibility of developing a separate publication on transit encompassing national or regional best practices.

At the recent conference on transit, particular attention was given to the difficulties faced by landlocked developing countries.  During a special session on the issue, the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), several concrete suggestions were made on how to turn land-lockedness into land-linkedness.  The Director General of Paraguay Customs indicated that trade transactions in his country incur 30% additional costs due to Paraguay’s geographical limitations.  The Representative from UN-OHRLLS confirmed that on average, LLDCs bear up to 40 % additional costs on trade transactions.  The investment being made in hard infrastructure, such as roads, rail infrastructure, intermodal logistical hubs and dry inland ports, remains one of the main priorities in order to improve the situation.  Participants confirmed the need for harmonization and simplification of border control procedures, as well as the promotion of ICT for the management of transit systems.  This is of significant importance to LLDCs in Africa of which there are eight!.

Representatives from  several of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities present at the Conference, such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), also highlighted the need to ensure that establishment functioning legal frameworks are in place to address the main challenges of regional transit regimes.

The use of existing information and communication technology (ICT) solutions was also raised at the Conference.  Today, numerous technologies are available to secure the movement of goods, such as electronic Customs seals which are actively used on containers transported from China to Europe and have proved to be reliable and efficient.  The regional electronic tracking system used for goods transiting between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda was also mentioned as a successful project resulting from cooperation between neighbouring Customs administrations.  The Representative from ECOWAS informed participants that work has started to connect the IT systems of ECOWAS Members.  Regarding the challenges related to interconnectivity, the benefits of global implementation of the WCO Data Model were pointed out.

Railway transport is playing an increasingly important role in moving goods between countries in Eurasia, as explained by the Representatives from China and Russia Customs as well as the Representative from the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF).  It was pointed out that block trains now bring goods from China to Europe through Russia and Central Asian countries within a fortnight; four times faster than via maritime routes.  It is worth nothing that in the absence of a global instrument regulating the movement of trains across borders, which would obviously be of benefit to transit operations, bilateral agreements are the norm.

Transit systems, such as the European Union’s New Computerised Transit System (NCTS), the Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) and relatively new transit facilitation initiatives in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), were also discussed in detail.  Turkey, a user of two transit systems – NCTS and TIR – highlighted the importance of digitalization of the transit processes and explained its involvement in the e-TIR project aimed at providing an exchange platform for all actors (Customs authorities, holders and guarantee chains) involved in the TIR system.  In this regard, Turkey has participated in two pilot projects with two neighbouring countries, namely Georgia and Iran. Source: the WCO

Transit_Gallery_2

The World Customs Organization (WCO) hosted its first Global Conference on Transit at its Headquarters in Brussels.  This event, which comes right after the annual WCO Council Sessions, sees the launch of a new tool for the facilitation of transit and establishment of efficient transit regimes, namely the Transit Guidelines. At the end of the first day of the conference, all the panelists agreed on the usefulness of the Transit Guidelines for further developing and implementing their respective transit systems.  They urged the WCO to continue to update the Guidelines as a platform for future standardisation of transit systems.

Over 200 high-level delegates from more than 80 countries, including heads of Customs administrations, international organizations, development partners, the private sector and academia attended this Conference.

LLDC in AfricaThe landlocked countries in Africa are: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Customs administrations are naturally playing a prominent role in the smooth movement of transit goods and, as a result, are in a position to support economic development, particularly in LLDCs.

That is why the WCO began developing the Transit Guidelines with the aim of harmonizing different transit frameworks, unlocking the potential of LLDCs, and taking practical steps towards efficient transit regimes as foreseen by international legal frameworks such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the Vienna Programme of Action, and the Revised Kyoto Convention.  The Transit Guidelines contain 150 guiding principles and a variety of practical experiences of implementing efficient transit regimes, as shared by WCO Members and have been issued in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Russian. Source: WCO

Fighting BEPs in Africa

Thanks to Peter Draper and team for this policy briefing and discussion documents on Country-by-Country reporting.

Multinational enterprises (MNEs) can shift profits away from jurisdictions with comparatively high tax rates to jurisdictions with lower to no tax rates, and so avoid paying their fair share of taxes without breaking any single jurisdiction’s laws. This is in part possible owing to the restricted exchange of information between national tax authorities, which limits these authorities’ capacity to conduct accurate MNE audits.

The implementation package on Country-by-Country Reporting for Action 13 of the BEPS project, published on 8 June 2015, foresees that tax authorities will automatically exchange key indicators (such as profits, taxes paid, employees and assets of each entity) of Multinational Enterprise Groups with each other, therewith allowing tax authorities to make risk assessments as to the transfer pricing arrangements and BEPS-related risks, which may then serve as a basis for initiating a tax audit.  OECD Automatic Exchange portal.

By creating standard reporting templates and model legislation to collect MNEs’ relevant business information, Action 13 of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan – Transfer Pricing Documentation and Country-By-Country Reporting – is seen as part of the solution to addressing MNE tax evasion. While representing a substantial step forward, the proposed set of recommendations has a limited scope and is technically onerous to implement in poor developing countries, where revenue authorities are severely resource-constrained. These issues are reviewed in relation to African resource mobilisation needs, and with an eye to the 2020 review of country-by-country reporting (CbCR) implementation.

To view/download the policy paper click here!

To view/download the discussion paper click here!

Source: Tutwa Consulting Newsletter June 2017

EmptyTrips

Founder and CEO of tech start-up EmptyTrips; Africa’s first smart transport marketplace says she is aware that the introduction of her new transport concept could possibly disrupt the logistics industry as we know it.

Benji Coetzee’s “Filling spaces to places” is a similar concept to that of Uber and Airbnb. It’s based on convenience and inexpensive transport services that pick up goods and take them to a clients destination faster, and cheaper than conventional logistics and road freight services.

“The EmptyTrips concept is based on smart algorithms that match empty trips on trucks, trains and planes, to the demand. This opens up access to cross-border runners using vetted transporters for your transport needs,” Coetzee said.

Logistic often account for a large portion of product and service costs, with transporters often battling with the reality of empty return legs. EmptyTrips has opened up a platform for users to offer their empty trips, find an empty trip from current postings, and request an empty trip as a customer. It aims to bridge the gap for competitive rates, and fill these empty return legs allowing the transporter to recover fees on otherwise empty trips while the customer pays less for transport.

“For too long we have focused on hard infrastructure, when we could be using technology to reduce congestion, delays and assist in our goals of high regional trade.

The on-demand transport service is likely to help with these problems and provide an ease to transporting goods from one place to another.

Transporters and senders of goods can sign-up to www.emptytrips.com. The transporters can bid for cargo needing to be moved and shippers can get competitive open bids. Source: TransportWorldAfrica.com

Mozambique flagThe Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) recently published a communication informing it’s stakeholders about the Single Road Cargo Manifest as received from the Mozambican Revenue Authority (MRA).

The MRA has informed MCLI that the 2nd phase of the Single Road Cargo Manifest process will come into effect from the 16th of June 2017, when all international road carriers transporting goods to Mozambique through the Ressano Garcia border post will be required to submit the Road Cargo Manifest on the Single Electronic Window platform in compliance with national and international legislation. MRA Service Order Nr 17/AT/DGA/2017, in both Portuguese and English, is attached for your consideration.

For information and full compliance by all members of staff of this service, both (National and Foreign) International Cargo Carriers, Clearing Agents, Business Community, Intertek and other relevant stakeholders, within the framework of the ongoing measures with a view to adequate procedures related to the submission of the road cargo manifest, for goods imported through the Ressano Garcia Border Post, in strict compliance to both the national and international legislations, it is hereby announced that, the pilot process for transfer of competencies in preparation and submission of the road cargo manifest to Customs from the importer represented by his respective Clearing Agent to the Carrier is in operation since December 2016.

Indeed, the massification process will take place from 15th of April 2017 to 15th of June 2017, a period during which all international carriers (national and foreign) who use the Ressano Garcia Border, are by this means notified to register themselves for the aforementioned purposes following the procedures attached herewith to the present Service Order.

As of 16th of June 2017, the submission of the road cargo manifest into the Single Electronic Window (SEW) for the import regime, at Ressano Garcia Border, shall be compulsory and must be done by the carrier himself.

International road carriers must therefore register for a NUIT number with the Mozambican Revenue Authority between the 15th of April and the 15th of June 2017 and the necessary application form is included. Road carriers are urged to do so as soon as possible to enable the continued smooth flow of goods through the border post.

Specific details can be found here! 

Source: MCLI

CP Mission 16_01_465_ Successful Stakeholders Training

During November 2016, 16 Customs officers from SACU member administrations received training in the area of successful stakeholder consultation. The training was facilitated by Accredited WCO Experts from the SACU region. As a result of the workshop, participants drafted National Stakeholder Consultation action plans which outline the administration’s national effort in necessary interaction with key stakeholders. The action plans will be used to guide and improve cooperation with businesses in the implementation of the Preferred Trader Programme once they are approved by the Member administrations. Source: WCO

TNPA SpotlightTransnet’s new Spotlight App enables its customers to Track and Trace their containers, adding a valuable service to assist with their day to day planning, to increase operational efficiency.

Available on Android and Apple devices, current features include “Track and Trace”, which is not only focused on containers, but also extended to trucks and vessels. Track and Trace extends across all Transnet Terminals and TFR Navis Facilities.

Soon to be released features will enable our customers to be notified of any operational changes in the various Transnet Terminals, from weather conditions to any congestion issues.  In addition, the “Register Me” feature will enable Transnet to send customers personalised information regarding their specific consignments.

The Transnet Spotlight App is in line with Transnet’s MDS pillars, being Admired, Digital, Agile and Value, Transnet Spotlight is the only app in the industry that provides status of consignments across all Shipping Lines.  Future releases will extend to other industries. Source: Transnet.co.za

containeryardSouth Africa is moving away from a policy promoting trade and investment to one that contradicts this, a roundtable on SA-European Union (EU) trade relations heard on Tuesday.

This comes as global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows jumped 36% last year to their highest level since the global economic and financial crisis began in late 2008, but plummeted in emerging markets, especially SA.

The most recent United Nations (UN) Conference on Trade and Development global investment trends monitor shows FDI into SA fell 74% to $1.5bn last year, while FDI inflows to Africa fell 31% to about $38bn.

Central Africa and Southern Africa saw the largest declines in FDI. The end of the commodity “supercycle” and the plunge in oil prices affected new project developments drastically, the UN body said. This had also affected Brazil, Russia and China, but not India, whose economy had surged ahead of late.

Peter Draper, MD of Tutwa Consulting, which researches policy and regulatory matters in emerging markets, said the promulgation of legislation such as the private security bill and the expropriation bill, created an impression that SA was not an attractive investment destination.

“What lies behind all of that, I think, is an ideological agenda, which is not favourable to business,” he said. “Geopolitically there is no love between SA and the US and SA and the EU. (But) There is lots of love for the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, SA).”

South African and international business have raised the alarm over the quiet signing into law of SA’s Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill late last year, after the government had acknowledged that it would do little to promote trade.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry said last week that the African National Congress had directed its economic transformation subcommittee to review the trade agreements signed by SA since 1999.

It said SA’s goal in “negotiating” trade agreements was to support national development objectives, promote intra-African trade and the integration of SA into global markets. This is likely to be highly controversial after the government from 2013 unilaterally cancelled about 13 bilateral investment treaties with major EU countries, drawing warnings from the bloc that this could damage trade relations.

Investors fear the Protection of Investment Bill has diluted recourse to international arbitration over trade disputes, and enhances the possibility of expropriation. Critics also say it contradicts SA’s obligations under the Southern African Development Community’s finance and investment protocol, by undermining equitable treatment between foreign and domestic investors.

John Purchase, CE of agribusiness association Agbiz, which with Tutwa Consulting organised yesterday’s roundtable, said the bill had not answered “all those questions around the bilateral investment treaties”. Source: Business Day

KRA-Customs-Transit-Control

Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner-General John Njiraini announces the implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to rid Mombasa port of corruption

Four East African countries on Tuesday agreed to fast-track implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to enhance regional trade.

Commissioners-general from the Kenyan, Ugandan, Rwandan and Tanzanian revenue authorities said adoption of an excise goods management system would curb illicit trade in goods that attract excise duty across borders.

They said creation of a single regional bond for goods in transit would ease movement of cargo, with taxation being done at the first customs port of entry.

The meeting held in Nairobi supported formation of the Single Customs Territory, terming it a useful measure that will ease clearance of goods and reduce protectionist tendencies, thereby boosting business.

Implementation of the territory is being handled in three phases; the first will address bulk cargo such as fuel, wheat grain and clinker used in cement manufacturing.

Phase two will handle containerised cargo and motor vehicles, while the third will deal with intra-regional trade among countries implementing the arrangement.

The treaty for establishment of the East African Community provides that a customs union shall be the first stage in the process of economic integration.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) commissioner-general John Njiraini said the recently introduced customs and border control regulations were designed to enhance revenue collection and beef up security at the entry points.

“At KRA, we have commenced the implementation of a number of revenue enhancement programmes particularly on the customs and border control front that will address security and revenue collection at all border points while enhancing swift movement of goods,” he said.

To address cargo diversion cases, the regional revenue authorities resolved that a joint programme be rolled out to reform transit goods clearance and monitoring processes. Source: DailyNation (Kenya)

Kenya_flag_mapfDi Markets that even without the data for December, it is already clear that Kenya enjoyed a major increase in inward investment in 2015 when compared with 2014.

Greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets has tracked a bumper year for Kenya-destined FDI. Excluding retail, the monitor has recorded 78 projects between January and November 2015, a 36.84% increase compared with the whole of 2014. FDI entering Kenya during the 11 months of 2015 (for which data is available) has already surpassed that recorded for 2013, the previous multi-year high. fDi Markets is set to record 2015 as witnessing the highest number of inward FDI projects for Kenya since the it commenced tracking data in 2003.

fDi Markets has tracked the upward trend as beginning in 2007, with FDI levels increasing year on year between then and 2011. In the period between 2011 and 2014 a period of consolidation occurred in which inward investment fluctuated, with decreases recorded in 2012 and 2014. Between 2007 and 2015, fDi Markets has tracked a 766.66% increase in project numbers and a total capital investment of $14.04bn.

Kenya’s FDI resurgence in 2015 is further illustrated when compared with the rest of Africa. During 2015, Kenya attracted 12.58% of all FDI entering Africa, with only South Africa, a long-time powerhouse, attracting more, with 17.1%. This is further compounded by Nairobi attracting the most FDI on the continent at city level in 2015, beating Johannesburg, which has held this accolade since 2010.

With December’s data still to be recorded, Kenya is set to surpass previous years as a favoured destination for investment in Africa. With the implementation of proactive FDI legislation scheduled to be ratified during 2016 by Kenya’s government, further consolidation in 2016 is unlikely. Source: fDiMarkets

Smuggled Ivory

In January 2014, while x-raying a Vietnam-bound container declared to hold cashews, Togolese port authorities saw something strange: ivory. Eventually, more than four tons was found, Africa’s largest seizure since the global ivory trade ban took effect in 1990. [Photo: Brent Stirton, National Geographic]

Last year, one of Kenya’s most adored elephants, Satao, was killed for his ivory. Poachers shot the bull elephant with a poisoned arrow in Tsavo East National Park, waited for him to die a painful death, and then hacked off his face to remove his massive tusks.

Poachers continue to kill an estimated 30,000 elephants a year, one every 15 minutes, fueled to a large extent by China’s love of ivory. Thirty-five years ago, there were 1.2 million elephants in Africa; now around 500,000 remain.

A recent documentary, 101 East, released by Al Jazeera, traces the poaching of elephants and smuggling of ivory from Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salaam through the port of Zanzibar to Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world. It handled nearly 200,000 vessels last year and is a key transit hub for smugglers transporting ivory from Africa to China. Between 2000 and 2014, customs officials seized around 33 tons of ivory, taken from an estimated 11,000 elephants.

With the huge challenge faced by customs and other law enforcement agencies in West Africa, wildlife crime is on the rise. Regional traffickers and organized crime groups are exploiting weak, ineffective and inconsistent port controls throughout the region.

U.N. Action in Africa
To address the issue, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized a workshop in Accra, Ghana, from August 25 to 27 August, and in Dakar, Senegal, from August 31 to September 2. The objective was to provide training for national law enforcement agencies to better fight wildlife crime through the control of maritime containers. The workshop was led by trainers and experts from UNODC, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the CITES Management Authority.

The Container Control Programme has been developed jointly by UNODC and WCO to assist governments to create sustainable enforcement structures in selected sea and dry ports to minimize the risk of shipping containers being exploited for illicit drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime. The implementation of the program is an opportunity for UNODC to work with governments in establishing a unit dedicated to targeting and inspecting high-risk containers.

UNODC, in partnership with WCO, delivers basic training programs and provides technical and office equipment. For example, the equipment connects the units to the WCO’s ContainerCOMM – a restricted branch of the Customs Enforcement Network dedicated to sharing information worldwide on the use of containers for illicit trafficking.
Sustainability.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon argues: “Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law, degrades ecosystems and severely hampers the efforts of rural communities striving to sustainably manage their natural resources.”

Wildlife trade is a transnational organized crime that raises profits of about $19 billion annually. In addition, it is often linked to other crimes such as arms trafficking, drug trafficking, corruption, money-laundering and terrorism – that can deprive developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Shipping
It’s hardly surprising that many of the big ivory seizures made in recent years have been detected in shipping containers, says Dr. Richard Thomas, Global Communications Coordinator for the environmental organization TRAFFIC. “Partly that’s due to the sheer quantity of ivory being moved (the largest-ever ivory seizure was 7.1 tons) – which from a practical and cost point of view makes sea carriage more attractive than air carriage.

“Also in the smugglers’ favor is the huge numbers of containers moved by sea. Some of the big ports in Asia deal with literally thousands of containers per day. Obviously it’s not practical or feasible to inspect each and every one, and that’s something the organized criminal gangs behind the trafficking rely upon.”

There’s lots of issues to be dealt with, says Thomas: For example, even when an enforcement agency makes a seizure, it’s not easy to find out who actually booked the passage for the container and who knew precisely what was in it and actually put it there. “That’s one area where transport companies can collaborate with enforcement agencies to assist follow-up enquiries. Obviously companies have records of where the container is headed too, obviously key information for follow-up actions,” says Thomas.

TRAFFIC recently ran a workshop in Bangkok under the auspices of the Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) project, targeting the movement of illicit wildlife cargoes across borders.

“The transport industry can serve as the eyes and ears of enforcement agencies as part of a global collaboration to eliminate the poaching and trafficking of illegal wildlife commodities,” said Nick Ahlers, Leader of TRAFFIC’s Wildlife TRAPS project.

“To be successful, the entire logistics sector needs to be part of a united push to eliminate wildlife trafficking from supply chains. In particular, we would welcome participation from major shipping lines and the cargo and baggage-handling sector.”

If nothing is done to stop the ivory trade, Africa’s wild elephants could be gone in a few decades. Source: Reuters.

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