Archives For SADC

ZIMRAaaaaaaaZimbabwe’s Deputy Finance and Economic Planning Minister Terrence Mukupe has estimated that the country has lost an estimated $20 million in revenue receipts since ZIMRA’s automated Customs processing system (ASYCUDA World) collapsed in the wake of server failure on 18 December 2017.

During a site visit of Beit Bridge border post earlier this week, it was revealed that ZIMRA collects an estimated $30million per month in Customs duties at its busy land borders. The Revenue Authority has since instituted manual procedures.  Clearing agents are submitting their customs documents accompanied by an undertaking that they will honour their duties within 48 hours. That is, when the ASYCUDA system is finally resuscitated and this is totally unacceptable.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe lies at the heart of the North-South Corridor which handles a substantial volume of transit traffic. The threat of diversion due to lack of proper Customs control and opportunism will also create both a fiscal and security headache. The deputy minister stated that the government was considering abandoning the Ascyuda World Plus system to enhance efficiency and the ease of doing business. “We need to benchmark it with what our neighbours in the region are using”.

It has also been suggested that the ZIMRA board have been complacent in their oversight of the affair. While it is a simple matter to blame systems failure, the lack of management involvement in taking proactive steps to ensuring redundancy of the country’s most crucial revenue collection system has been found wanting.

This calamity undoubtedly signals a huge concern for several other African countries who are likewise supported by UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA software. Many question post implementation support from UNCTAD, leaving countries with the dilemma of having to secure third party vendor and, in some cases, foreign donor support to maintain these systems. The global donor agencies must themselves consider the continued viability of software systems which they sponsor. Scenarios such is this only serve to plunge developing countries into a bigger mess than that from which they came. This is indeed sad for Zimbabwe which was the pioneer of ASYCUDA in sub-Saharan Africa.

This development must surely be a concern not only for governments, but also the regional supply chain industry as a whole. While governments selfishly focus on lost revenue, little thought is given to the dire consequence of lost business and jobs which result in a more permanent outcome than the mere replacement of two computer servers.

Under such conditions, the WCOs slogan for 2018 “A secure business environment for economic development” will not resonate too well for Zimbabwean and other regional traders tomorrow (International Customs Day) affected by the current circumstances. Nonetheless, let this situation serve as a reminder to other administrations that management oversight and budgetary provisioning are paramount to maintaing automated systems – they underpin the supply chain as well as government’s fiscal policy.

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EU SADC EPAThe EU has signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on 10 June 2016 with the SADC EPA Group comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. Angola has an option to join the agreement in future.

The other six members of the Southern African Development Community region – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU as part of other regional groups, namely Central Africa or Eastern and Southern Africa.

For specific details on the key envisaged benefits of the agreement click here!

The EU-SADC EPA is the first EPA signed between the EU and an African region, with an East African agreement expected to follow in a few months, but with the West African agreement having met fresh resistance. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström stressed at the signing ceremony the developmental bias in the agreement, which extended duty- and quota-free access to all SADC EPA members, except South Africa. Africa’s most developed economy has an existing reciprocal trade framework known as the Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement, which came into force in 2000.

South Africa, meanwhile, had secured improved access to the EU market on a range of agricultural products, as well as greater policy space to introduce export taxes. EU statistics show that bilateral trade between South Africa and the EU stood at €44.8-billion in 2015, with the balance tilted in favour of European exports to South Africa, which stood at €25.4-billion. This improved access had been facilitated in large part by South Africa’s concession on so-called geographical indications (GIs) – 252 European names used to identify agricultural products based on the region from which they originate and the specific process used in their production, such as Champagne and Feta cheese. In return, the EU has agreed to recognise over 100 South African GIs, including Rooibos and Honeybush teas, Karoo lamb and various wines.Sources: EU Commission and Engineering News

 

 

ZIMRAaaaaaaaThe implementation of the Government’s new pre-shipment regulations under the Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) programme (essentially a fancy term for plain old pre-shipment inspection – who they trying to fool?) took off with host of challenges last Tuesday. The new regulations that were gazetted into law on 18 December last year and requires that goods be tested for conformity with required standards prior importation into Zimbabwe, went into operation on 1 March.

Government introduced the programme with the view to reduce hazardous and substandard imported products and improve customs duty collection. Bureau Veritas has been appointed by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for the verification and the assessment of conformity of goods in exporting countries.

The new developments have seen cargo piling up on the South African side of the border with most importers failing to produce the required transitional certificate of conformity. The Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) chief executive officer, Mr Joseph Musariri, called on the government to waive the implementation of the CBCA on goods that were shipped before it became operational.

“You will note that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has failed to enforce the regulations since 18 December last year only to try and implement it this week (last week) and that has resulted in a chaotic situation.

“It is sad that cargo is piling up at Beitbridge border post where most importers are having challenges in acquiring the transitional CBCA certificates,” he said.

Mr Musariri said the government introduced the idea on 27 July last year but could not implement it since there was no legislation to that effect.

He said under the new dispensation all products regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe exported into Zimbabwe must be accompanied by a CBCA certificate.

“The categories of goods regulated under the programme include the following: food and agriculture, building and civil engineering, petroleum and fuels , packaging material, electrical/electronic products, body care, automotive and transportation , clothing and textile and toys,” he said.

Mr Musariri said Zimra was now refusing to clear goods without the CBCA certificate and requesting for the conformity certificates.

“They are telling those importers to contact the nearest offices for Bureau Veritas for inspections and issuance of the requisite certificates.

“Locally destined cargo which is being shipped from various overseas markets is the worst affected and importers are incurring daily demurrage expenses of between $250 and $5000.

“In some cases duties had been paid to Zimra but now they are singing a different song,” he said.

The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr Mike Bimha, could not be reached for comment.

Bureau VERITAS liaison officer for Zimbabwe, Mr Tendai Malunga, said his organisation was ready for the implementation of the CBCA programme.

“We have trained various stakeholders on the new programme and are ready to roll.

“Furthermore we have hired more staff in most countries to conduct inspections and various conformity tests on the various countries exporting goods to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

WCO Capacity Building Magazine 3rd Edition.ashxThe WCO – Sub – Saharan African Customs Modernization Programme funded by the government of Sweden comprises four projects, namely the WCO- EAC CREATe , the WCO– SACU Connect, the WCO– WACAM and the WCO– INAMA Projects. In their totality, the projects support regional Customs Unions in Africa in their mission to facilitate trade without compromising the security of their country and the safety of their citizens. The newsletter will appear quarterly and will inform on ongoing tasks as well as give an overview of future activities. Source: WCO

AfricaMap_SADCThe following article titled ‘Cross-border projects dependent on cost’ was recently published by Transport World Africa. It deals essentially with cross border logistics and provides an insight into regional infrastructure and logistics projects – successes, failures and their impact on transport logistics. It emphasizes the need for greater and closer public and private partnerships, but alas sovereign states appear to be more focused inwardly on their domestic affairs. 

Implementers of projects have the knack of focusing on what they know very well, often leaving out what they do not know. Usually, this comes back to bite them. An example is in the integration of leadership. Countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region compete with each other for demand and capacity provision, which results in the inflated cost of logistics.

Rather, countries should work together. Integrating ports and funding is relatively easy. What is not available is integrated leadership in the region (excluding heads of various states), agreeing that SADC is ‘one country’. Logistics planning is still done at the country level, which is not practical, because then supply chains are being developed that are competing with each other. The sector should be cautious about acceleration, and about what is funded. One example is Transnet, whose plans should fit into regional plans, but right now they do not.

The softer issues in project development often go ignored, but they are at times the most important. There should be a halt to focusing mainly on mega-projects, since they take time and money, as well as resulting in complications (excluding Grand Inga). Despite this, mega projects do create a common vision for a region. Do sponsors have the capacity to support these projects? Institutional capacity is certainly needed. At the political level, southern Africa has done well, top–down approaches are there, but things go off course when there is the attempt to get others to plug-in to this.

One-stop border posts are very important. It was cautioned that the region must be careful not to follow the architecture of colonial extraction, which means focusing on intra-Africa trade rather than too great a focus on ports and exports. Government and private sector must both drive natural winners and losers in markets. There is sufficient funding and policies, but project preparation is limited. What is needed is to decide how to make hubs of excellence, and decide who is going to do what.

The high-level work has been done, but now the sector is facing an implementation challenge. Governments do not do regional integration very well. The private sector does the regional integration, and they suffer most when it does not work. Regional infrastructure will not happen unless there is public support for it. The most successful cross-border project was a PPP: the M4 toll road. This had a large economic impact.

Also, the Port of Maputo has been successful in generating income. Ports without land side integration are useless. Projects need a soft-issue mediator; otherwise there are great ideas, but no implementation. The private sector should not see itself as a messiah, but should rather have a sense of responsibility for developing supply chains. There needs to be a clear understanding of soft issues, clear legal and policy understanding, and communication. SADC has been driving the implementation of harmonisation of vehicle load management for twenty years. A mediator between the public and private sector (such as Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) is absolutely necessary.

It is a stark reality how little intra-African trade there is. To address this there should be a clear target for development in future. In Namibia, there are efforts to focus on the positives in regards to transport development, even with limited resources. Namibia has been independent for 25 years; 15 years ago the Walvis Bay Corridor was created as a focus on regional integration and regional development. There are 2.2 million people in Namibia, which means a small economy.

There is no real choice but to take into consideration the region and recognise the value Namibia can add. In regards to planning, in 1995 it developed its first transport master plan, and in 2014 it developed its second transport master plan (this was twenty years apart). In February 2015, it developed a logistics master plan to develop Namibia into a logistics hub in the region. It has focused on transport modes because it has a port emphasis. It started roads development.

Currently, Namibia is building its first dual-carriage road (65 km), which is a big step for such a small economy. It would like to do more with sufficient funding. Namibia is also looking into what to do with aviation. As a whole, the country is trying to develop as an alternative trade route for southern Africa. Five to seven years ago, Walvis Bay was just a fishing port, but now R500 million is coming into Namibia’s economy through this post (from zero rand 10 years ago). Namibia is trying to create a better alternative in the SADC region. Now it is looking to focus on developing the manufacturing sector. Namibia is working with South Africa to develop partnerships (excluding transport corridors to production corridors). Continue Reading…

ESA_Regional-WS_South-AfricaThe WCO Regional Workshop on Strategic Initiatives for Trade Facilitation and the Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) – Mercator Programme – for the WCO East and Southern Africa (ESA) region was held from 15 to 17 September 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was hosted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) representing the WCO Vice Chair of the ESA region, and financially supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. More than 100 participants from 21 ESA Members (Customs, Trade Ministries/equivalent Ministries), the WTO and other international organizations, development partners and the private sector participated in the event.

The Workshop was opened by the Commissioner of SARS, Mr. Thomas Moyane. He expressed his view that the WCO Mercator Programme created significant conditions for contributing to intra-African as well as international trade facilitation benefits. As Vice Chair of the ESA region, he hoped that the Workshop could recommend immediate actions for the region.

The Workshop raised a lot of interest and active discussions from a variety of well-prepared and informative presentations, including the role of the WCO in TFA implementation;  TFA regulations such as Article 23.2 on National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) and specific national and (sub-)regional examples of implementation approaches; experiences of Trade Ministries and several partner institutions active in the region; and discussions on further approaches to Capacity Building and TFA implementation, including in cooperation with Development Partners.

The region agreed on next steps forward, including on a regional focus on the establishment and maintenance of NCTFs (for instance further provision of replies to the respective WCO survey; identification of the situation within ESA Members); reporting the outcomes of the Workshop to the ESA Regional Steering Committee; encouragement of ESA Members who are not yet Contracting Parties to the Revised Kyoto Convention to accede to it as soon as possible (and/or to identify related Capacity Building needs) – as one concrete way to also support TFA implementation; and responsibility of the ROCB and the Vice Chair to continue collecting and publishing information on ongoing Capacity Building projects and work of partner organizations such as SADC, COMESA, SACU and UNCTAD especially in the TF(A) area in the region – while encouraging Members and partner organizations to share such information.

The Workshop was successfully concluded with positive feedback from Members, partner organizations and development partners. A summary document on the discussions held during the Workshop is currently under finalization by the Vice Chair’s office and the ROCB and will be circulated to all participants of the Workshop in due course. Source: WCO

COMESA-SADC-EAC-TripartiteAround 2008, most Southern African countries began to realise that the great ambition found on the SADC website at that time of moving from a SADC free trade area to a customs union by 2012 was not going to happen.

The SADC website had a very EU-like regional integration agenda.

This is not surprising given that the great sugar daddy in Brussels basically funds the entire organisation. SADC wanted to replicate the EU linear model – first a free trade area where the countries trade freely among themselves; then a customs union where the members agree to a common tariff; and then a common market where all goods, services, capital and labour flow freely. Finally, SADC was to complete the copy of the EU by creating a monetary union.

This flattering imitation of the EU was obvious – the Brussels paymaster pays and we all happily follow their model into Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of a united Africa. But the ugly problem was, as ever, African history.

The less than subtle British also wanted a customs union in Africa. So, in 1910 they just created one – the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which, like the proverbial bicycle without any pedals, still manages to stand because it is padded with money.

When the British implemented SACU after the Anglo-Boer War, there was no need for polite and time consuming subtleties of contemporary African consensus building. The Union of South Africa and the British high commissioner signed on behalf of the protectorates of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland – not a black person in sight unless they were serving the tea.

Almost a century later those who designed the EU-like agenda for SADC’s integration conveniently forgot their history and somehow assumed that a customs union could be readily grafted on the SADC free trade area which was already in existence.

But there cannot be two external tariffs and, therefore, either SACU or SADC as a customs union had to go. And the difficulty that SADC faced with creating a customs union is that no one is ready to sacrifice national interests for a broader common good.

Free trade areas are relatively easy, they can be easily fudged, but customs unions are hard work because all the countries that are members have to agree to the external tariff.

In the meantime, the apartheid regime in Pretoria realised that it desperately needed to buy friends and influence enemies and so in 1969 it changed SACU from a regular customs union to one where the share of revenue from customs was derived from share of regional trade.

Normally, customs unions divide the revenue poll based on what economists call the ‘destination principle’. This meant that countries get the revenue depending on what imports were destined for that country. So if 5% of imports were destined for, say, Botswana, it would get 5% of the revenue.

But the SACU formula was purposely designed by South Africa to make the BLS (Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland as members) completely dependent upon transfers from Pretoria by basing the formula on the share of intra-SACU trade and not external trade.

The oddity was that with the end of apartheid, things actually got even worse after the 2002 SACU re-negotiations because Pretoria agreed to a formula that made Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and newly independent Namibia get their share of customs revenue from SACU based on the share of intra-SACU imports.

SA imports almost nothing from SACU countries and the BLNS countries import almost everything from SA and so they get a huge amount of revenue. Many officials in Pretoria deeply resent the subsidies in SACU.

When the other SADC members saw how much money the BLNS countries were getting from Sacu, whenever the issue of a SADC customs union came up their response was – ‘me too please, we want the same formula!’

So, a SADC customs union would have eaten into the massive transfers (about N$20 billion per year) that Namibia and the rest of the BLNS states get each year from Pretoria and there was no way they were going to agree, and so the SADC customs union was not a realistic possibility.

After the obvious end of the SADC negotiations for a customs union, African negotiators began to look around for something that would keep them off the unemployment lines. The infamous African ‘spaghetti junction’ of the East African Community, Comesa and SADC with its overlapping membership became the next target. If you can’t form a customs union then just get a bigger FTA (free trade area).

Now this year, finally, an FTA has been signed but it has also been fudged. Few really want to give the highly competitive Egyptian producers free trade access to their African markets.

Ostensibly, we are moving to negotiate a continental free trade area which will finally begin the process of fulfilling of Nkrumah’s dream of a united Africa. But instead, what we have is Cecil John Rhodes’s dream of a market from Cape to Cairo – almost; no deepening of the African economic relationship into a customs union; just a widening to the north and west.

Free trade areas are a nice step forward but they normally require no real sacrifice of economic interests.

Europeans are guilty of many cruelties in Africa but none so absurd or spiteful as the ridiculous lines they drew on the map of the African continent in 1884 at the Berlin Conference when they divided up the continent. The Belgian barbarism in the Congo may fade from human memory and the wounds of apartheid may heal over time but African leaders will struggle to completely eliminate those economic and political lines from the map of Africa.

It is those lines and some petty “sovereign” economic interests that are the main reason why a billion dynamic people in Africa with such incredible natural resources continue to live in poverty. The Namibian (An opinion piece by Roman Grynberg, professor of economics at the University of Namibia.)

SADC organizes a Customs Training of Trainers Course on NTBs in cooperation with the WCO [SADC]

SADC organizes a Customs Training of Trainers Course on NTBs in cooperation with the WCO [SADC]

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) organized a Training Course under its Customs Training of Trainers (TOT) Programme between 17 to 20 November 2014 at its Headquarters (Gaborone, Botswana). The training was conducted in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the WCO Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for the Eastern and Southern Africa Region, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Forty-two senior Customs officers from 13 of SADC’s 15 Member States, many of whom are active in their administrations’ training departments, participated in the Training Course.

The main objective of the TOT Programme is to provide technical and professional support, particularly in view of the contribution by Customs administrations to the consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area and the successful implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade. This will be achieved through the TOT Course on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), which continue to be major stumbling blocks to trade in the region and many of which are Customs-related (or perceived as such). Participants who complete the Training Course will disseminate the knowledge gained, at national level, to relevant stakeholders including Customs officers from their own administrations.

Participants learnt the basic principles and definition of Non-Tariff Measures and NTBs, covering the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) and inter-regional initiatives such as the online NTB monitoring mechanism and national monitoring committees. They also gained an overview of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) recently concluded under the auspices of the WTO. The WCO gave an introduction to its tools and instruments for applying trade facilitation measures and to the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC). Particular emphasis was placed on the new Transit Handbook and the TFA Implementation Guidance.

The course was highly interactive and participants shared their views on the importance of global standards to facilitate regional integration and various trade facilitation measures. They discussed how they could promote Coordinated Border Management (CBM) and increase public-private dialogue at national and regional level. Source: WCO

WCO ESA_Snapseed

Participants from all 24 members of the WCO’s Eastern and South African region attended the forum. [SARS]

Customs officials from 24 eastern and southern African countries met in Pretoria this week to share knowledge and experience with regard to the successful modernisation of Customs administrations.

Opening the three-day forum, Erich Kieck, the World Customs Organisation’s Director for Capacity Building hailed it as a record breaking event.

“This is the first forum where all 24 members of the Eastern and Southern African region (ESA) of the WCO were all in attendance,” he noted. Also attending were officials from the WCO, SACU, the African Development Bank, Finland, the East African Community and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Michael Keen in the 2003 publication “Changing Customs: Challenges and Strategies for the Reform of Customs Administrations” said – “the point of modernisation is to reduce impediments to trade – manifested in the costs of both administration incurred by government and compliance incurred by business – to the minimum consistent with the policy objectives that the customs administration is called on to implement, ensuring that the rules of the trade game are enforced with minimum further disruption”

The three-day event witnessed several case studies on Customs modernisation in the region, interspersed with robust discussion amongst members. The conference also received a keynote addressed by Mr. Xavier Carim, SA Representative to World Trade Organisation (WTO), which provided first hand insight to delegates on recent events at Bali and more specifically the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

The WCO’s Capacity Building Directorate will be publishing a compendium of case studies on Customs Modernisation in the ESA region during the course of 2014.

WCO ESA members – Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Source: SARS

An aerial view of the port of Walvis Bay. NamPort is seeking a green light from Cabinet to spend over N$3 billion on the expansion of the harbour (Namibian Sun)

An aerial view of the port of Walvis Bay. NamPort is seeking a green light from Cabinet to spend over N$3 billion on the expansion of the harbour (Namibian Sun)

NamPort has recently commenced a massive N$3 billion construction project to build a new container terminal, but plans even more extravagant expansion in the years to come, according to its executive for marketing and strategic business development, Christian Faure. He expanded on the planned multi-billion dollar Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Gateway Terminal envisioned for the area between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay this week.

“The SADC Gateway terminal is still in the concept phases,” stressed Faure. “This development was considered the long term plan for the Port of Walvis Bay’s expansion, but plans have been brought forward mainly due to the construction of the new fuel tanker berth facility and the Trans-Kalahari railway line initiative for the export of coal from Botswana. This development is not to be confused with the new container terminal currently under construction at the port,” he said.

Already NamPort has completed pre-feasibility studies and is currently busy with geo-technical evaluations to determine the structure of the ground in the area to be dug out, he said. NamPort is also positively engaging the Municipality of Walvis Bay on the land itself, and other role players that may be impacted, he said. “This is a massive development and to put it into perspective, the current port is 105 hectares in size. The SADC Gateway port is 10 times that with a size of 1 330 hectares. The new container terminal will add 40 hectares,” said Faure.

With Namibia’s reach to more than 300 million potential consumers in the SADC region, the port of Walvis Bay is ideally positioned as the preferred route to emerging markets in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Faure explained that several mega projects have surfaced in the last few years that will not be feasible without the SADC Gateway terminal, including the Trans-Kalahari Railway Line, Botswana coal exports through Namibia, mega logistics parks planned in NDP4, the budding crude oil industry, large scale local mining product exports, as well as magnetite, iron ore and coal exports from Namibia.

The SADC Gateway Port project (also sometimes called the North Port) will extend the existing harbour to the north of Walvis Bay between Bird Island and Kuisebmond. It will cover a total for 1330 hectares of port land with 10 000 meters of quay walls and jetties providing at least 30 large berths. The new port will also feature world class ship and rig repair yards, and oil and gas supply base, more than 100 million tons worth of under cover dry bulk terminal, a car import terminal and a passenger terminal, he explained.

The SADC Gateway Port will also feature a liquid bulk terminal for very large crude carriers, dry ports and backup storage areas, break bulk terminals, small boat marinas and a new high capacity rail, road, pipeline and conveyor link to the area behind Dune 7. Source: Informate, Namibia

aoAngola’s minister for trade, Rosa Pacavira states that Angola may only join the SADC Free Trade Zone only in 2017.

The minister said that joining the Free Trade Zone would only happen when Angola had finished its membership road map, which is currently being drawn up, but noted that Angola’s entry “remains on the government’s agenda as part of its regional integration policy.”

“We are drawing up a road map and we will see if, by 2017, Angola manages to join the Free Trade Zone, but for that we will have to create industry and internal capacity so that Angola can compete with other countries that are already part of the zone,” said Pacavira.

“If we open up the market now we will stop producing a lot of things that we need to produce, because if Angola joins up now we will have the whole of the SADC selling products here and we will not be producing them,” she said.

The SADC Free Trade Area was set up in Johannesburg in August 2007, at the 28th SADC summit, and currently includes South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. The SADC countries that did not join are Angola, the democratic Republic of Congo and the Seychelles. Source: www.macauhub.com

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The SADC region is now equipped with a third World Customs Organization accredited Regional Training Centre in addition to the South African and Zimbabwean Regional Training Centre. The Regional Training Centres are excellent platforms for Customs to advance capacity building and to share information and best practices.

The Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) has been selected by the WCO to host the RTC as part of the WCO initiative to optimise resources in the region and in line with government’s objective of making of Mauritius a Knowledge Hub. The RTC represents the 25 of its kind adding to the existing Centres across the world and is the fourth one in the WCO ESA region.

The Centre will enable the WCO achieve its mission of enhancing Customs administrations in the WCO ESA region thereby helping these Customs administrations to make an important contribution to the development of international trade and to the socio-economic well-being of their country.

Under the WCO strategy the RTC has four main objectives namely: development of regionally relevant training; maintenance of specialist trainer pools; provision of specialist training at a regional level; and development and support of the WCO’s blended learning programme. Moreover, it has as task to develop and maintain annual training plans and work in partnership with the private sector to maintain effective relationships between Customs and economic operators as well as assist Member countries in their training needs.

The Mauritius RTC is equipped with English, French and Portuguese language facilities as well as an e-learning platform. The Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Xavier Luc Duval, formally opened the RTC on the 25th November 2013. In his opening address, Secretary General Mikuriya commended the leadership and continued engagement of Mauritius, previously as WCO Vice-Chair for the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Region from 2011 to 2013, and now as host of an RTC. He hoped that this RTC would serve to share knowledge and strengthen the human resource network for Customs cooperation and regional integration.

 

NamPort ExpansionThe African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and Namibia on Friday, November 8, 2013 signed a ZAR 2.9 billion (US $338 million) sovereign guaranteed loan to the Nambian Ports Authority (Namport) to finance the construction of the new container terminal at Port of Walvis Bay and a UA 1.0 million grant (US $1.5 million) to the Government of Namibia for logistics and capacity building complementing the port project loan. The project was approved by the AfDB Group in July 2013.

The project is expected to enable Namport to triple the container-handling capacity at the Port of Walvis Bay from 350,000 TEUs to 1,050,000 TEUs per annum. It will also finance the purchase of up-to-date port equipment and the training of pilots and operators for the new terminal. The grant component will fund the preparation of the National Logistics Master Plan study, technical support and capacity-building for the Walvis Bay Corridor Group and training of freight forwarders.

According to the AfDB Director of Transport and ICT, Amadou Oumarou: “Through this project which potentially serves up to seven major economies in the SADC region, the Bank is assisting in the diversification and distribution of port facilities on the southwest coast of Africa, and provides the much-needed alternative for the region’s landlocked countries.”

The project will stimulate the development and upgrade of multimodal transport corridors linking the port to the hinterland while improving the country’s transport and logistics chains. It will also boost competition among the ports and transport corridors in the region with the ripple effect on reductions in transportation costs and increased economic growth.

The projected project outcomes include improvement in port efficiency and increase in cargo volumes by 70% in 2020 as a result of increased trade in the region. The benefits of the project will include among others, the stimulation of inter-regional trade and regional integration, private sector development, skills transfer and most importantly employment creation, leading to significant economic development and poverty reduction in Namibia, and the SADC region. Source: African Development Bank

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Kenya's capital Nairobi, September 23, 2011. The road, which is being built by China Wuyi, Sinohydro and Shengeli Engineering Construction group, is funded by the Kenyan and Chinese government and the African Development Bank (AFDB). The project will cost 28 billion Kenyan shillings ($330million), according to the Chinese company. AfDB has cut the expected economic growth rate for Kenya in 2011 to 3.5-4.5 percent from an earlier forecast of 4.5-5 percent due to high inflation and a volatile exchange rate, the bank's country economist for Kenya said on Friday. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Kenya’s capital Nairobi, September 23, 2011. The road, which is being built by China Wuyi, Sinohydro and Shengeli Engineering Construction group, is funded by the Kenyan and Chinese government and the African Development Bank (AFDB). REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

The citizens of the African continent have been introduced to one grand vision of development after the other – from OAU to AU. However, there is a tendency by some of the member countries to retreat from fulfilling regional treaty commitments, which, in some cases, would entail losing a degree of sovereignty.

What is the biggest stumbling block to achieving the African Integration Vision?

But after more than 50 years of solemn regional integration declarations these rhetorical and symbolic efforts still haven’t made the regional integration schemes any more inclusive. For example, when analysing the ‘inclusiveness’ trends as measured by Poverty and Income Distribution Indicators, most Sub-Saharan African countries won’t achieve the MDG target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half ahead of the 2015 deadline. This is despite the increasing total merchandise export as well as within most of the regional economic communities (RECs).

Some have tried to absolve policy-makers of the lack of progress with regards to achieving the milestones of the “linear” integration model based on the European experience and advocated by the Abuja Treaty. They propose an alternative non-trade oriented approach; the so-called functional regional cooperation. This perspective focuses on setting standards for transport such as the SADC recognized driving license; construction of a new regional corridors; an African identity etc. This less ambitious but perhaps more realistic perspective could lead to failure in removal of trade barriers, while at the same time presenting a much more positive outlook of regional integration than what international economic data would otherwise show.

The AfDB is attempting to get to the bottom of this regional integration – inclusive growth conundrum in its 2013 African Development Report, currently under preparation. But we might already get some good answers to this question through an ongoing research project entitled ‘PERISA‘. Led by the ECDPM & SAIIA, it intends to look deeper into what regional integration/cooperation really entails and what the underlying drivers/factors and specific bottlenecks are. In July, we got a hint on what to expect from the research project from a very enriching Dialogue on the Drivers and Politics of Regional Integration in Southern Africa.

National versus Regional

South Africa has developed a ‘2030 vision’ and national strategic plan. It includes some proposals to reposition South Africa hegemon in the region. However, very few of the National Development Plans (NDP) in Southern Africa even mention regional integration. Mauritius being an exception as it benefits from the support of the Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM), which is disbursed directly into the budget of the government as untargeted financial assistance. Notwithstanding this support and the disbursement to the nine other Member States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and additional donor-supported initiatives in other RECs, there is still a flagrant absence of alignment between commitments taken at the regional level and the actual planning process at the national level.

This discrepancy between the regional and national level is a matter of concern because if these Regional Trade Agreement (RTA) commitments do not feature amongst the country’s national priorities then there is an even greater risk that they will not be implemented in practice. This latent risk perhaps goes a long way in explaining the relative poor record when it comes to the level of domestication of regional integration legal instruments, implementation of trade and regionalintegration-related budgets, implementation of Council of Ministers’ trade-related decisions, which the AfDB will seek to capture through its forthcoming system to measure regional integration in Africa.

During the meeting a call for a community of practice among national planning agencies was made which could assist and drive the integration process through the convening of regular meetings between regional and strategic national planners. It is positive to observe that Southern African countries seem to have warmed up to this idea of an informal community of practice outside the formal institutional structure.

What can Development Finance Institutions do about this inertia?

In addition to the supply-driven collection of regional integration statistics, Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) could also lend technical and financial support to the formation of Regional Planning entities’ process. Amongst others this could include providing support to the above-mentioned community of practice of national development planners interacting with regional planners. This could eventually ensure that regional integration gets fully mainstreamed within the national planning policy instruments as illustrated in Mauritius’ latest 2013 budget, whose overarching theme rests on six main objectives, including fast-tracking regional integration.

There seems to be a consensus that the RECs must have technical capacity to facilitate the RTA negotiation process and decision-making process. Both the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through its TMSA programme and the AfDB through its forthcoming 2014-2016 Tripartite Capacity Building Programme are attempting to address this deficiency in a coordinated manner in line with fundamental principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Source: ECDPM
website (An analysis by Christian Kingombe, Chief Regional Integration & Infrastructure Officer at the AfDB).

 

Participants in the Customs Training of Trainers Programme at SARS Academy, Pretoria, South Africa

Participants in the Customs Training of Trainers Programme at SARS Academy, Pretoria, South Africa (Picture: SADC)

The SADC Customs Training of Trainers Programme 2013-2015 was initiated recently from 26-30 August 2013 on ‘Communication and Facilitation Skills’ at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) Academy, Pretoria, South Africa. The objective of the training was to give the trainers the necessary skills and expertise to teach Customs officials and stakeholders in an effective and professional way.  The training was attended by forty (40) participants from 14 SADC Member States.

The SADC Customs Training of Trainers Programme 2013-2015 was approved by the Sub Committee on Customs Cooperation (SCCC) in May 2013. The main objective of the programme is to provide technical and professional support to the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade, particularly in view of the contribution of Customs Administrations to the successful implementation and consolidation of the SADC FTA. It is therefore meant to support implementation of agreed instruments and programmes under the SADC Protocol on Trade.

The programme is being in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB),the Regional Training Centres and GIZ. The first Customs technical training under this programme will be on the SADC Rules of Origin in November 2013 with the objective to establish a poll of trainers on the subject in the region. Source: SADC Secretariat