When will the AfCFTA be customs-ready?

Picture: Grayomm @ Unsplash.com

The negotiations to finalise the tariff schedules and rules of origin (RoO) of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are taking place during the last two weeks of January 2022. Senior Trade Officials (STOs) and the AfCFTA Council of Ministers (COM) will then meet to confirm the results or to decide the outstanding issues. Once the State Parties have agreed on the content of these important Annexes to the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods, they must be adopted. This is the responsibility of the African Union (AU) Assembly.[1]

Trade in goods under AfCFTA preferences can then begin among the State Parties presently trading with each other under most-favoured-nation (MFN) rates. (Non-State Parties will first have to accede to the AfCFTA Agreement in terms of Article 23 of the AfCFTA Agreement.)

Those State Parties that are members of Regional Economic Community (REC) Free Trade Areas (FTAs), Customs Unions (CUs) and other trade arrangements will continue to trade under existing preferential arrangements.

Article 19(2) AfCFTA Agreement provides that

“… State Parties that are members of other regional economic communities, regional trading arrangements and custom unions, which have attained among themselves higher levels of regional integration than under this Agreement, shall maintain such higher levels among themselves”.

Article 8(2) of the Protocol on Trade in Goods adds the following:

“… State Parties that are members of other RECs, which have attained among themselves higher levels of elimination of customs duties and trade barriers than those provided for in this Protocol, shall maintain, and where possible improve upon, those higher levels of trade liberalisation among themselves”. 

However, there is also the practical requirement that the AfCFTA regime must be “customs ready”. It means that the tariff books of individual State Parties and of CUs such as the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and presumably the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), need to be updated. AfCFTA columns will have to be added to these tariff books in order to ensure the new preferences will be enjoyed when customs officials and border control agencies clear goods under this new trade arrangement.

The updating of a tariff book normally happens through national legislative procedures such as the promulgation of a Government Gazette. Customs and other border officials can only act in terms of domestic legal instruments granting them the necessary powers. Trade agreements are not self-executing.[2]

The importation and exportation of goods entail detail procedures involving customs clearance. Customs clearance is the procedure of procuring permission, through its customs authority, to either take goods out of its territory (export) or have goods enter its territory (import). Failure to provide the correct paperwork will mean that goods cannot clear customs and enter the market of the country of destination.

The customs authority of a country is the administrative agency responsible for collecting tariffs and for controlling the flow of goods into and out of a country. Depending on local legislation and regulations, the import or export of some goods may be restricted or forbidden, and the customs agency enforces these rules. The customs authority is different from the immigration authority, which monitors persons who leave or enter the country, checking for appropriate documentation, apprehending people wanted by international arrest warrants, and impeding the entry of others deemed dangerous to the country. A customs duty is a tariff or tax on the importation or exportation of goods.

The approach taken by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) is to improve the security of borders, without unduly hindering legitimate international trade. The WCO initiative focusses on the entire international trade supply chain, rather than restricting customs’ interest to that aspect of the international trade transaction, when goods move across a border. The basic principle underpinning its work is to create an international mechanism for Customs Administrations to gain access to relevant information relating to international trade well in advance, for the purposes of risk management and risk assessment.[3]

The AfCFTA is a free trade agreement (FTA). This is an agreement between States that removes tariffs and other restrictions on goods which are traded between the State Parties, according to the applicable RoO. The main difference between a customs union and a free trade agreement is that even where zero (or reduced) tariffs are part of an FTA, extra bureaucracy is needed to take advantage of those tariffs. Exporting under an FTA means companies have to comply with a complex set of rules (known as preferential rules of origin) to prove that goods only come from countries who have signed up to the FTA and that such goods have been produced or manufactured in accordance with the applicable RoO. For a customs union, once the common external tariff has been paid for a product then it is in “free circulation”. Traders only have to prove the common external tariff has been paid on goods or parts they have used. This is easier to demonstrate than proving the origin of imported goods.

Source: Authored by Gerhard Erasmus, TRALAC, 24 Jan 2022


[1] Art 22 AfCFTA Agreement.

[2] Constitutional systems based on monism, may provide otherwise but will have other requirements to ensure that the executive branch of government respects the powers of the legislature.

[3] https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/a/6/24649.pdf

WCO supports the launch of the Global NTFC Forum 2022

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has joined hands, once again, with partner Annex D+ organizations (GATF, ITC, OECD, UNECE, UNESCAP, WBG and WTO) in supporting the Global Forum 2022 for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs). The Forum is being held from 1 to 4 February 2022 in a virtual mode and led by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It has brought together more than 500 participants, around half of which are members of their NTFCs.

In the high-level opening session, the speakers agreed on the need to ensure well-functioning, holistic and dynamic NTFCs, with their critical role in facilitating trade especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, through collaborative arrangements amongst all relevant public and private sector stakeholders. Embracing digital tools, the e-commerce growth and the importance of MSMEs and women traders were also highlighted by the speakers.

In his video address, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the WCO emphasized the importance of trade facilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery phase. Through simplifying and standardizing border procedures and creating transparent and predictable conditions for trade, Customs administrations facilitate legitimate business that, in turn, increases economic growth and job opportunities.

Secretary General Mikuriya mentioned a survey carried out in 2021, where the WCO took stock of the situation in the area of NTFCs, including the challenges and opportunities observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many NTFCs have put their work on hold, due to the inability to meet in person. However, in some instances NTFCs played an important role in addressing facilitation priorities during the pandemic, and have benefited from the sense of urgency generated by the crisis.

Dr. Mikuriya emphasized the need to strengthen the partnership among all relevant government authorities for improving border agency cooperation, which is essential in emergency situations. He reiterated the need to foster the dialogue and collaboration with the business community and underscored the private sector contribution to digitization, to conducting the Time Release Studies and in advancing Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programmes, while taking into consideration the specific challenges of MSMEs.

The importance of increased diversity and inclusion in trade facilitation reforms, including improving the conditions for women traders was also highlighted. The WCO supports this agenda through its Network for Gender Equality and Diversity, amongst others.

The WCO reiterated its commitment to the TFA agenda in developing and least developed country Members through the WCO Mercator Programme.

The NTFC Forum was made possible with the support of the United Kingdom’s Her Majesty Customs & Revenue (HMRC) through the HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD Trade Facilitation Capacity Building Programme, which brings together the WCO and UNCTAD in a partnership for TFA implementation.

The whole address of the Secretary General can be found here.

WCO – New technology-assisted capacity building: the Virtual Reality (VR) assisted training program

The WCO has announced that it has set up a VR training program with the support of CCF-Korea at the WCO Headquarters on 9th November 2021. 

This program was developed and first established in RTC Korea last September to support customs officials to learn and understand the basic procedures of physical inspection on containerized cargo at a maritime port.

With the help of VR devices and a cyber master, a trainee is requested to select one of three individual scenarios and detect contraband items such as drugs, counterfeit goods and explosives smuggled in imported cargo.

After selecting one case, documents have to be compared and discrepancies identified. The program will show necessary steps to wear safety gear, inspect the exterior of the container, scan it with ZBV vehicle and study the X-ray black/white and coloured images. In the following step, the container is opened and inspected with tools like a chisel, magnifying glass, scanner, etc., at a bonded area of a dedicated warehouse.

RTC Korea, KCS and WCO Secretariats contributed to the program production and provided materials on drug smuggling cases with pictures, advice on preparatory steps, inspection scenarios taking into account risk indicators from the WCO RM compendium.

The length of one training session is approximately 10 to 15 minutes depending on the trainee‘s progress, and the devices for the VR training are the headset, controller, high-end computer, TV screen and kiosk. The program also developed a screen version that Customs officials can play on their desktop computer and notebook and have the 3D experience.   

During the experience session, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the WCO, expressed high interest and called on feedback on future activities from those who experience the program to make it more relevant for Members’ capacity building. In this regard, the immediate task is to prove its effectiveness through regional capacity building activities and WCO meetings. 

Dr. Taeil Kang, the Director of Capacity Building Directorate expressed his plans to develop content for other topics including e-commerce transactions, X-ray image screening and uploading on CLiKC and installation in other WCO regions. 

For more information, please contact Sungsig Kim, CCF-Korea manager at the Capacity Building Directorate (sungsig.kim@wcoomd.org).

WCO News – June 2021

The WCO has published the 95th edition of WCO News, the Organization’s magazine aimed at the global Customs community, providing a selection of informative articles that bring the international Customs and trade world to life.

This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on “People”, and includes several articles discussing experiences, tools and practices related to Human Resource management and development. We hope this will inspire readers to take action and contribute to creating a work environment which enables people to continue growing professionally and to learn new skills that will benefit their organization, their country and the global community.

In the “Panorama” section, Algeria Customs introduces its advance ruling system for the classification of goods, Belarus Customs explains how its role in border management has developed, and a private company gives an overview of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System launched in Mozambique.

Given that the WCO Secretariat organized the second edition of its Global Origin Conference in March 2021, we decided to dedicate the “Focus” section of the magazine to rules of origin. It opens with an article highlighting the key points made by the Conference speakers and continues with articles on advance rulings, problems associated with non-preferential rules and the joint proposal for the review of Specific Annex K to the Revised Kyoto Convention.

Lastly, in the “Point of View” section, Argentina Customs explains how it has increased its participation in WCO committees and working groups following the move to online meetings, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations presents some of the challenges facing freight forwarders, and a software engineer shares his views on data analytics tools and how to make them work for all.

To discover the full content of this edition please visit the magazine website.

Source: WCO, 24 June 2021

WCO – Cross-border movement of vaccines enhanced with further guidance and good practices

The World Customs Organization (WCO) published the 2nd edition of the Secretariat Note on the Role of Customs in facilitating and securing the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines that enhances the inaugural version launched on 25 February 2021.

WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya stated, “How to achieve equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is critical, and Customs administrations around the world should support global efforts by not only facilitating the cross-border movement of the vaccines themselves, but also by speeding up and facilitating the Customs clearance of the raw materials and components used in the vaccine manufacturing process.” He added that “This will greatly contribute to the efforts to scale up vaccine manufacturing and the 2nd edition of the Secretariat Note highlights the critical role Customs”.

The document contains further guidance on practical ways to implement the measures of the December 2020 Resolution of the Customs Co-operation Council on the Role of Customs in facilitating the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines, a greater number of Members’ case studies, and operational guidelines developed for the WCO Membership by the Australian Border Force. 

The guidance outlined in the Secretariat Note draws upon relevant WCO instruments and tools, Members’ good practices and insights gathered as a result of the collaboration with other international organizations, the pharmaceutical industry, logistics providers and other relevant private sector entities.

The Secretariat Note is designed to be a living document that will be enhanced with more Members’ practices and further practical guidance as WCO Members and the industry gain experience and share information with the WCO Secretariat on the Customs clearance of COVID-19 vaccines, related supplies, inputs and equipment.

Also refer to – COVID-19 vaccines distribution across borders

Source: WCO, 28 May 2021

SARS hosts Single Government Authorised Economic Operator Workshop in collaboration with Border Management Agency (BMA)

Customs activities for this year are underpinned by the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) 2021 theme “Customs bolstering recovery, resilience and renewal for sustainable global supply chain”. The colossal task that lies ahead as nations look to reconstruct their global supply chain is one of the reasons that the WCO has advocated Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programmes as a tool to promote reconstruction.  

SARS, in collaboration with the Border Management Agency (BMA), is leading the process  of creating  a Single Government  AEO (SGAEO) programme to ensure improved trade facilitation and supply chain security in South Africa, the Southern African region, the African continent and globally. The World Bank (WB) and WCO have agreed to assist SARS to create a SGAEO programme, through the WB Trade Facilitation Programme.

The agreement to conceptualise a SGAEO for South Africa culminated in agreement that SARS and the BMA would jointly host a workshop with all agencies involved in managing trade at the border. The WB and WCO have agreed to participate in the workshop on 2 March 2021. The workshop is intended to contextualise and set the scene for the creation of a SGAEO programme in South Africa and to allow for comparison of the various OGA risk management programmes for cross border trade with the SARS AEO programme.

International drivers for Single Government AEO programmes include the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement and the WCO’s SAFE Framework of Standards. South Africa’s scoring on the OECD’s Trade Facilitation Indicator is used as input into the World Bank’s (WB) Ease of Trading across Borders in its annual Doing Business Report.

For Customs Administrations, AEO programmes are vital tools for developing trust-based partnerships with economic operators who have high levels of commitment to compliance and supply chain security. Economic operators, on the other hand, are interested in the tangible benefits offered to participants, particularly, mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with trading partners. 

While several countries have adopted different OGA (Other Government Agencies)AEO models, SARS’ preferred model is a Single Government AEO Programme with one certification process and benefits granted by all agencies.

Source: South African Revenue Service, Rae Vivier, 2 March 2021

Korea’s Dog Training Centre certified as a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre

Korea Customs Service (KCS), represented by its Commissioner, Mr. Suk-Hwan Roh, and the World Customs Organization (WCO), represented by its Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, completed the signing process for a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre (RDTC) in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

The new RDTC in Incheon is equipped with high-quality facilities, which include indoor and outdoor kennels, training buildings with simulation training zones and veterinary clinic, etc. Its experienced instructors will conduct professional detector dog training programmes for Customs officials responsible for canine-related duties in the region.

The Centre will serve as a hub for the region’s Customs administrations to share best practices and expertise, and will also provide assistance and advice to other administrations through detector dog training and procurement of detector dogs.

“Detector dogs are of paramount importance in Customs duties,” stressed Secretary General Mikuriya. “Thanks to the professional experts, first-rate facilities and specialized and tailor-made training programmes provided by the KCS, I am confident in the future success of the new RDTC,” he added.

Detector dogs are an ideal tool for screening people and goods in a timely manner, as they have one of the most acute senses of smell in the animal kingdom. This enables them to rapidly detect the presence of prohibited or regulated goods (including drugs, explosives, currency, CITES items, etc.), with minimal disruption to the movement of people and goods. Detector dogs are one of the most important operational resources for identifying and combating Customs fraud worldwide.

With a view to maintaining high standards and building a global network for canine enforcement, to date the WCO has certified 16 WCO RDTCs established in different regions. The goal of these RDTCs is to provide professional canine-related training and capacity building activities for Customs administrations in each of the respective regions and to facilitate cooperation between them.

Source: World Customs Organisation

German and Belgian Customs Officials seize 23 tonnes of cocaine

Germany and Belgium have seized 23 tonnes of cocaine in the biggest-ever haul of the drug in Europe, German customs said Wednesday.

“The enormous amount of cocaine would have brought in several billion euros (dollars) in street sales,” the customs office said in a statement.

German officers had discovered 16 tonnes of cocaine hidden in containers from Paraguay at the port of Hamburg on Feb. 12.

Joint investigations into the stash with Dutch officers led authorities to swoop on another 7.2 tonnes in cocaine at the port of Antwerp in Belgium, German customs said.

A 28-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday in the Netherlands in connection with both the German and Dutch hauls totaling 23 tonnes, it added.

Customs officers at the busy port in Hamburg had decided to take a closer look at the Paraguayan containers after noticing “clear irregularities” with its contents – tin cans that were meant to be filled with putty.

“Beyond a layer of genuine goods packed just behind the container door, numerous tin cans were in fact filled with other goods,” said customs.

Investigators ordered the containers unloaded, and found the cocaine stash in over 1,700 tin cans.

“This is the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in Europe and one of the largest single seizures worldwide,” German customs said, referring to the Hamburg haul.

In all, 102 tonnes of cocaine headed for the European continent were intercepted last year by an international law enforcement project co-implemented by the United Nations.

Source: Daily Sabah, 24 February 2021

Nigeria bans multiple cargo inspections in ports

The federal government has banned all agencies from conducting individual cargo inspection at the ports, noting that such inspections must be done jointly.

The Executive Secretary, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello disclosed this on Wednesday during a courtesy call to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Chairman, Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd).

He said the regime of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) recently approved has commenced with no provision for individual inspections by agencies, directing inspection agencies to assemble do joint inspection by 9 am.

“What causes delay is the lack of harmonisation of operating procedures of many agencies at the port. We want all agencies to be on the same page so the process is efficient. The manual says everyone should assemble at the port by 8:30 am and by 9:00 am, everyone does joint inspection. This will cut out delays, ensure efficiency, and promote ease of doing business” Mr. Bello said.

With this measure in place, the ports digitisation process must reach 90 per cent by this first quarter just as the government targets 24 hours operations at the ports.

“Some terminal operators have 98 per cent and others are coming up. Our target is that by the end of the first quarter, we should achieve 90 per cent digitalisation so you don’t need to go to the port to transact business,” he stated.

“We are also aiming to have 24 hours operations at the seaports just like the airports. We are doing it in conjunction with our sister agencies at the ports” he further stated.

The NDLEA Chairman, Brig. Gen. Marwa (rtd) pledged his support to the new reform but he added that the NDLEA will not compromise its duties in stopping illicit drugs from entering the country to destroy citizens.

Source: Daily Trust, Chris Agobi, 8 February 2021

SARS – Massive Rhino Horn bust worth R53-million

SARS’ Customs unit made a bust of rhino horn with an estimated value of R53 172 000, in a shipment destined for Malaysia.

While conducting manifest profiling at the courier facilities, the Customs Detector Dog Unit at O.R.Tambo International Airport selected a suspicious shipment declared as ‘HP Cartridges Developers’. 

The three-piece shipment was taken to the X-ray scanner for non-intrusive inspection, where the image analysis reflected objects resembling the shape of rhino horns. The shipment was taken for physical inspection and upon inspection of the boxes, 18 pieces of rhino horn were found concealed in traditional clothing. The goods weighed 63kg. 

This is the fourth rhino horn bust by SARS Customs at the O.R.Tambo International Airport between July 2020 and February 2021. The overall weight of the rhino horn seized in these four cases is 277.30 kg with an estimated value of R 234 114 206.

The Customs officers immediately called the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) to the scene, who confiscated the shipment for further investigation.

In his reaction to this massive seizure of the rhino horn, Commissioner Edward Kieswetter congratulated the Customs officers for their excellent work. He warned the perpetrators of crime that SARS, working with other law enforcement agencies, would spare no efforts in confronting and dealing decisively with any criminal malfeasance. Those that are involved in such egregious and merciless killing of rhinoceros and mutilating them will be brought to book.

He furthermore said, “Those who are determined to destroy the rich natural endowment of our country, which is a common treasure and heritage for all, that we should look after for future generations, will be met with unwavering commitment of our officers to enforce the law.” 

Source: South African Revenue Service, 4 February 2021

International Customs Day 2021

Once again, the Customs community comes together, united in celebrating International Customs Day, which officially falls on 26 January of each year. This special day enables WCO Members, the WCO Secretariat and Customs’ worldwide partners to dedicate themselves to taking forward a particular theme. Thus, throughout 2021, under the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain,” the Customs community will be focusing on emerging from the global pandemic and support people and businesses by strengthening the global supply chain, reinforcing collaboration, harnessing technology and putting “people” at the centre of the transformation process.

Indeed, as Customs will be moving to reconstruction in the wake of COVID-19, Members will be invited to embrace digital transformation at the borders, paying particular attention to automation, the use of innovative technologies, and the adoption of collaborative approaches with all stakeholders along the supply chain.

Customs, being uniquely positioned and mandated at borders, can contribute to a sustainable supply chain in the following ways:

  • Reinforcing collaboration to drive the Recovery process. The economic impact of the pandemic on companies has been colossal, with considerable disruption of global supply chains. The herculean task of reconstruction cannot be undertaken in isolation, and the expertise of all border agencies and stakeholders will be a decisive factor. Customs will be called upon to demonstrate its leadership during this process, at the national and international levels. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that coordinated border management is possible, efficient, and can be further institutionalized at international and national levels. The sound implementation of the SAFE Framework of Standards, including the AEO standards and cooperation with other government agencies, appears to be a relevant focus in this context. Given the increase in e- commerce observed during the COVID-19 period, it would be timely for Members to implement the WCO E- Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce in order to address security and facilitation in the context of this emerging supply chain trend, in close collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Embracing advanced technologies to enable Renewal rather than return to how things were before. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of major innovative and technological concepts which the WCO has been promoting for years. These include all-digital and paperless clearance methods, and the use of technology for implementing effective controls and facilitating, enhancing and accelerating processes. Irrespective of the pandemic, Customs administrations have been sensitized – through specialized forums and conferences – about thebenefits that can be reaped from the integration of technologies based on the use of big data, telematics and the Cloud into Customs operations. Building on the lessons learned, Customs administrations should look at the way goods are cleared at borders from a fresh perspective. Non-intrusive inspection devices, blockchain, artificial intelligence, sensors and connected objects, and other technological advances offer tangible benefits in terms of collecting, combining, sharing and analysing data, and these benefits should be maximized.
  • Putting “people” at the centre of change for a Resilient and sustainable supply chain. In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to systemic risks such as pandemics, Customs administrations will be called upon to build on the lessons learned and ensure that no one is left behind as we move towards a deeper transformation. To create greater resilience, “people” should be at the centre of the recovery model. Citizens around the globe have changed their daily lives drastically to adapt to the new reality. By the same token, Customs are called upon to rethink and adapt the way they operate, and enhance the preparedness of their staff through awareness raising and capacity building for the provision of a professional service. At the same time, resilience cannot be achieved without integrity, diversity and inclusion. A lack of integrity in Customs can distort trade and investment opportunities, undermine public trust in government administration and ultimately jeopardize the wellbeing of citizens, which in times of recovery could prove to be a recipe for failure.

The WCO will continue to provide guidance, help to share best practices and information, and deliver capacity building and technical assistance support to Members for the achievement of the above goals.

As in previous years, I am fully convinced that Customs administrations and the wider Customs community will rise to the occasion, fully committed to actively promoting their efforts and activities aimed at bolstering “Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” that includes sharing relevant practices and activities with others at WCO meetings and in key WCO publications.

Wishing you all a happy International Customs Day!

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya

WCO Secretary General

26 January 2021

Fate of a Ham Sandwich

Dutch TV news has aired footage of customs officers confiscating ham sandwiches from drivers arriving by ferry from the UK under post-Brexit rules banning personal imports of meat and dairy products into the EU.

Officials wearing high-visibility jackets are shown explaining to startled car and lorry drivers at the Hook of Holland ferry terminal that since Brexit, “you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff.”

To a bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil who asked if he could maybe surrender the meat and keep just the bread, one customs officer replied: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

The ban came into force on New Year’s Day as the Brexit transition period came to an end, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) saying travellers should “use, consume, or dispose of” prohibited items at or before the border.

“From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (eg a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU,” the Defra guidance for commercial drivers states.

The European commission says the ban is necessary because meat and dairy products can contain pathogens causing animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth or swine fever and “continue to present a real threat to animal health throughout the union”.

Dutch customs also posted a photograph of foodstuffs ranging from breakfast cereals to oranges that officials had confiscated in the ferry terminal, adding: “Since 1 January, you can’t just bring more food from the UK.”

The customs service added: “So prepare yourself if you travel to the Netherlands from the UK and spread the word. This is how we prevent food waste and together ensure that the controls are speeded up.”

Source: The Guardian, John Henley, 11 January, 2021

Draft One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) policy to be released for public comment

Government will release its draft one-stop border post (OSBP) policy for public comment during the first quarter of 2021, after Cabinet approved the draft policy during its meeting this week.

In a statement, Cabinet said that the OSBP policy would give effect to the framework adopted in 2018.

The policy sought to harmonise the movement of people and goods between South Africa’s land ports of entry and its neighbouring countries, while also addressing the congestion that resulted in costly trade delays and frustrated travellers.

“At a continental level, the policy contributes to the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, which advances interconnectivity amongst African countries to address infrastructure deficits and boost intra-Africa trade,” the Cabinet statement read.

The same statement also highlighted the fact that the African Union (AU) would be holding an extraordinary summit on December 5 and 6 on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The summit was being held to advance preparations ahead of the start of trading under the AfCFTA on January 1, 2021. Trading under the regime was meant to start in mid-2020, but was delayed as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns implemented in many of the countries that had ratified the agreement.

Cabinet said that the AfCFTA held “enormous” potential benefits for South Africa and could serve as a catalyst to economic growth and investment in the country.

“The free-trade area opens our exports of goods and services to a market of more than 1.2-billion people. As chair of the AU, South Africa has been at the forefront of driving the implementation of the AfCFTA.”

Cabinet added that the agreement would advance economic integration and strengthen efforts towards peace and stability.

Worryingly, moves to liberalise trade was taking place against a renewed flare-up in attacks on truckers in South Africa, with foreign drivers being targeted by groups claiming that these drivers were taking away work opportunities for South Africans.

Cabinet “strongly condemned” what it termed the lawlessness affecting the road freight industry and commended recent arrests in Gauteng.

“While we understand the frustrations at the violation of immigration laws by some companies, violence is not the solution. Cabinet calls on all affected people to submit their concerns about the freight transport industry to relevant structures instead of resorting to violence.”

The statement also confirmed that Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi was leading a team of Ministers set up to deal with this matter.

That team was expected to submit a concrete proposal to Cabinet to address all disputes affecting the industry. 

Related information

One- Stop Border Posts Progress in Africa

One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) Sourcebook, 2nd edition (Tralac)

Australian Border Force launches blockchain trial with TradeTrust

The Australian Border Force (ABF) started a blockchain trial with Singapore Customs and the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for the digitalization of cross-border trade processes. The tests will use both the ABF-developed Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’a TradeTrust.While one of TradeTrust’s objectives is to enable interoperability, it wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the announcement.

ABF’s trial will initially test digital verification for electronic Certificates of Origin the blockchain platforms and gather feedback from participants on their experience, a document with information regarding the product’s destination and country of export. Typically customs departments rely on this to assess import duties. The trial’s outcomes will be shared in the National Blockchain Roadmap’s Discovery Report

“In addition to our efforts internationally, this initiative will incorporate paperless trading and secure, digital exchange of trade information as part of the future architecture and design of an Australian Trade Single Window,” said Michael Outram, ABF Commissioner.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, and financial institutions in Singapore, such as ANZ will also be involved in the project. 

The Australian government recently announced the Simplified Trade Agenda, which aims to reform and digitize trade compliance processes. The Department of Agriculture is already working with Singapore on paperless trading for agricultural trade. ABF’s trial is another step towards the Agenda’s end goal. 

Meanwhile, the TradeTrust initiative was launched by Singapore’s government over two years ago with the purpose of strengthening Singapore’s competitiveness in international trading. Ultimately its goal is to enable interoperability for trade documentation. It has broad aims that include legal harmonization, developing standards as well as providing open-source software solutions.

Ten months ago, global organizations, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), signed a cooperation agreement to develop the TradeTrust blockchain framework. 

Source: Ledger Insights, 26 November, 2020

Two borders with SA proposed to ease pressure on Beitbridge

The Department of Immigration in Zimbabwe has advised the Government to consider formalising two proposed borders with South Africa to relieve pressure on Beitbridge and curb irregular migration and smuggling along the border’s flanks.

Beitbridge is the only land border with South Africa and two more tourism borders have been proposed at Shashe (120km west of Beitbridge town) and at Tshituripasi some 125km east of the border town.

One house (for immigration officials) and a road have been constructed at Shashe, while a road has been constructed and land for housing has been cleared at Tshituripasi.

Shashe was created in 2007 to facilitate groups of tourists during the Wildrun and the Tour de Tuli that are held annually.

Tour de Tuli attracts 500 visitors, while Wildrun attracts 80, all from across the globe and the events are usually held three months apart.

Assistant Regional Immigration Officer-in-Charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube, made the call during a recent visit by parliamentarians from the committee on Defence, Security and Home Affairs.

He said though the sites were identified a decade ago and initial bilateral engagements had been done, nothing much had happened on the ground.

Mr Ncube said the borders should be set up in the mould of Maitengwe, Mpoengs and Mlambapele, which Zimbabwe share with Botswana.

He said the creation of such ports that can be manned by a few officers will help to reduce smuggling and irregular migration (border jumping).

“We are concerned with cases of illegal crossing on the flanks of the legal border (Beitbridge),” said Mr Ncube. “Such a scenario is not good in terms of security and the country being able to collect revenue through imports/exports which are leaking via the many non-formal entry/exit points.”

Mr Ncube said in some instances, those living along the border areas did not see the need to travel for more than 100km or 200km to gain legal access to a place, which is just across the river.

He said such a reality could not be overlooked,  hence the need to formalise the already existing points, which can open on specified times to cater for all those travelling on family or tourism-related business in those areas.

The two borders, he said, will help boost arrivals of tourists, with the Shashe point catering for people visiting the Greater Mapungubwe Trans-frontier conservation area which coversBotswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe (west of Beitbridge).

“The Tshituripasi border will take locals, traffic to other western parts of Zimbabwe and to the Greater Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Area, which involves Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ncube.

“We have had to use these borders during major annual tourism events, albeit on a temporary basis and that has been done successfully. We have seen it, we can manage. This will be a relief to Beitbridge, which clears half a million people every month.”

Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe), 20 October 2020