Kazungula Bridge nears completion

Construction of the Kazungula bridge which will connect Zambia and Botswana and ultimately link the port of Durban in South Africa to the Democratic Republic of the Congo nears completion and by end of 2020 it is expected to be open to the public.

The Kazungula Bridge is located at the Kazungula crossing, where Botswana and Zambia share a border measuring about 750m over the Zambezi River. It is also at the confluence of Zambezi and Chobe rivers, and the meeting point of the four southern Africa countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The US $259.3m project was officially launched in September 2014 by then Vice-presidents of Zambia and Botswana, and is financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the two governments. The multi-million-dollar project was hailed as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) economic integration success stories, one of the missing links to realizing the North-South Corridor identified under the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP).

Kazungula Bridge under Construction

The new bridge will facilitate trade with Botswana and within the SADC region. The project, which entails a 923 metre-long rail/road extra dosed cable stayed bridge with approach roads as well as construction of one stop border posts on the Zambia and Botswana sides; was scheduled for completion last year but failed due to Zambia’s failure to pay.

The bridge is expected to reduce transit time for freight and passengers, boost the regional economy and even increase global competitiveness of goods from Botswana and Zambia due to reduced time-based trade and transport costs.

Uganda – Road Transport to adopt Relay System to accommodate COVID-19

The National COVID-19 Taskforce has agreed that all trucks entering Uganda will have only one person on board for the next four weeks in a move to control the movement and exposure of Ugandans to foreign truck drivers. 

The meeting which was convened yesterday decided that drivers will have to implement the relay system-where a designated driver drives to the Ugandan border and from there on, another from Uganda who has tested negative for COVID-19 continues with the rest of the journey.

For the last two weeks, truck drivers have undergone mandatory testing at the borders but have been allowed to continue with their journeys before the release of their results. In the process, the drivers who have tested positive have come into contact with several Ugandans. As of today, 18 drivers have tested positive and over 300 contacts are being monitored and traced.

With the new measures, new truck parks or stops have been designated. Drivers who have been tested for COVID-19 and are waiting for their results will stop under the surveillance of security officers to wait for their results.  Once results are released, drivers who test positive will be picked up by health ministry officials while those who test negative will be allowed to continue with their journey.

Different routes will have three stops. Route one will cover drivers from Kenya. These drivers will be able to stop at either Namboole, Lukaya, Ntungamo/Ishaka and the border. Route two also from Kenya will have drivers stop in Soroti or Kamdin corner. Trucks from Tanzania travelling to Kampala will cover route three and stop in Karuma and Packwatch.  Route four will cover trucks from DRC. The trucks will travel from Fortportal to Mubende and then Namboole. 

All other stop points that were previously used by the trucks such as; Tororo, Mbale, Lira, Kamdin, Mbikko, Naluwerere, Lyantonde, Namawojolo, Sanga, Ruti, Migyera, Luwero have been closed.  No truck is allowed to make stops there.

The new measures come following an outcry from Ugandans after several truck drivers carrying cargo from Kenya and Tanzania tested positive for COVID-19. Many had called for the closure of all border entry points.

Dr Monica Musenero, an epidemiologist and also a member of the task force says that the new measures are going to be implemented starting next week. She says that all the measures that have been set up are geared towards protecting Ugandans.

The task force also decided on reducing the number of fuel trucks that cross the border. According to Dr Musenero, railway services are going to be used to transport fuel.

“ We want to reduce the number of trucks entering the country. The railway freight services are going to be brought on board so that some things like fuel can be transported using the railway,” Dr Musenero adds.  

Other measures that were discussed and passed include; the mandatory use of personal protective equipment like masks by all drivers. Also, domestic trucks should have only two people. In addition to this, freight forwarders will have to pay for testing kits to be used to test drivers.

Source: The Independent, Uganda, 26 April 2020

World Bank -Trade and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Photo: Martin Sanchez, Unsplash

Maintaining trade flows during the COVID-19 pandemic will be crucial in providing access to essential food and medical items and in limiting negative impacts on jobs and poverty.

The speed and scale of the crisis are unprecedented. But governments can ameliorate the impact. The following documents, hyperlinked to this page provide initial guidance for policymakers on best practices to mitigate pandemic-related trade risks, support trade facilitation and logistics, and implement trade policy in a time of crisis.

Managing Risk and Facilitating Trade in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Maintaining trade flows as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic will be crucial in providing access to essential food and medical items and in limiting negative impacts on jobs and poverty.

Some countries are closing border crossings and implementing protectionist measures such as restricting exports of critical medical supplies. Although these measures may in the short-term provide some immediate reduction in the spread of the disease, in the medium term they may undermine health protection, as countries lose access to essential products to fight the pandemic. Instead, governments should refrain from introducing new barriers to trade and consider removing import tariffs and other taxes at the border on critical medical equipment and products, including food, to support the health response.

Trade facilitation measures can contribute to the response to the crisis by expediting the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. The World Bank Group provides guidance and technical assistance to developing and least developed countries to implement best practices to facilitate the free flow of goods.

Download the Guideline here!

Do’s and Don’ts of Trade Policy in Response to COVID-19

Despite the initial inclination of policy makers to close borders, maintaining trade flows during the COVID-19 pandemic will be crucial. Trade in both goods and services will play a key role in overcoming the pandemic and limiting its impact in the following ways:

  • by providing access to essential medical goods (including material inputs for their production) and services to help contain the pandemic and treat those affected,
  • ensuring access to food throughout the world,
  • providing farmers with necessary inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, equipment, veterinary products)for the next harvest,
  • by supporting jobs and maintaining economic activity in the face of a global recession. Substantialdisruption to regional and global value chains will reduce employment and increase poverty.Trade policies will therefore be an essential instrument in the management of the crisis.

Trade policy reforms, such as tariff reductions, can contribute:

  • to reducing the cost and improving the availability of COVID-19 goods and services,
  • to reducing tax and administrative burdens on importers and exporters,
  • to reducing the cost of food and other products heavily consumed by the poor and contributing to themacro-economic measures introduced to limit the negative economic and social impact of the COVID-19 related downturn,
  • to supporting the eventual economic recovery and building resilience to future crises.

Governments with industries producing COVID-19 medical goods or food staples can further contribute by committing to refrain from limiting exports through bans or taxes. If export restrictions must be used, then they should be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary.Measures to streamline trade procedures and facilitate trade at borders can contribute to the response to the crisis by expediting the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, and enabling exchange of services.

Reforms can be designed to reduce the need for close contact between traders, transporters and border officials so as to protect stakeholders and limit the spread of the virus, while maintaining essential assessments to ensure revenue, health and security. Interventions to sustain and enhance the efficiency of logistics operations may also be critical in avoiding substantial disruption to distribution networks and hence to regional and global value chains.

Download the Guideline here!

Trade in Critical COVID-19 Products

The covid-19 pandemic is increasingly a concern for developing countries. Using a new database on trade in covid-19 relevant products, this paper looks at the role of trade policy to address the looming health crisis in developing countries with highest numbers of recorded cases. It shows that export restrictions by leading producers could cause significant disruption in supplies and contribute to price increases. Tariffs and other restrictions to imports further impair the flow of critical products to developing countries. 

Download the Guideline here!

Also view the Blog post – Viral protectionism in the time of coronavirus

Source: World Bank, 1April, 2020

AfCFTA – an uphill struggle in quest for regional trade on the continent

Picture : Bloomberg.com

The following article was published by Bloomberg and sketches the day-to-day hardship for cross border trucking through Africa. In a sense it asks the very questions and challenges which the average African asks in regard to the highly anticipated free trade area. While rules of origin and tariffs form the basis of trade across borders, together with freedom of movement of people, these will mean nothing if African people receive no benefit. As globalisation appears to falter across Europe and the West, it begs the question whether this is in fact is the solution for Africa; particularly for the reason that many believe globalisation itself is an extension of capitalism which some of the African states are at loggerheads with. Moreover, how many of these countries can forego the much need Customs revenue to sustain their economies, let alone losing political autonomy – only time will tell.

Nyoni Nsukuzimbi drives his 40-ton Freightliner for just over half a day from Johannesburg to the Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe. At the frontier town—little more than a gas station and a KFC—he sits in a line for two to three days, in temperatures reaching 104F, waiting for his documents to be processed.

That’s only the start of a journey Nsukuzimbi makes maybe twice a month. Driving 550 miles farther north gets him to the Chirundu border post on the Zambian frontier. There, starting at a bridge across the Zambezi River, trucks snake back miles into the bush. “There’s no water, there’s no toilets, there are lions,” says the 40-year-old Zimbabwean. He leans out of the Freightliner’s cab over the hot asphalt, wearing a white T-shirt and a weary expression. “It’s terrible.”

By the time he gets his load of tiny plastic beads—the kind used in many manufacturing processes—to a factory on the outskirts of Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, he’s been on the road for as many as 10 days to traverse just 1,000 miles. Nsukuzimbi’s trials are typical of truck drivers across Africa, where border bureaucracy, corrupt officials seeking bribes, and a myriad of regulations that vary from country to country have stymied attempts to boost intra-African trade.

The continent’s leaders say they’re acting to change all that. Fifty-three of its 54 nations have signed up to join only Eritrea, which rivals North Korea in its isolation from the outside world, hasn’t. The African Union-led agreement is designed to establish the world’s biggest free-trade zone by area, encompassing a combined economy of $2.5 trillion and a market of 1.2 billion people. Agreed in May 2019, the pact is meant to take effect in July and be fully operational by 2030. “The AfCFTA,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his Oct. 7 weekly letter to the nation, “will be a game-changer, both for South Africa and the rest of the continent.”

It has to be if African economies are ever going to achieve their potential. Africa lags behind other regions in terms of internal trade, with intracontinental commerce accounting for only 15% of total trade, compared with 58% in Asia and more than 70% in Europe. As a result, supermarket shelves in cities such as Luanda, Angola, and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, are lined with goods imported from the countries that once colonized them, Portugal and France.

By lowering or eliminating cross-border tariffs on 90% of African-produced goods, the new regulations are supposed to facilitate the movement of capital and people and create a liberalized market for services. “We haven’t seen as much institutional will for a large African Union project before,” says Kobi Annan, an analyst at Songhai Advisory in Ghana. “The time frame is a little ambitious, but we will get there.”

President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and other heads of state joined Ramaphosa in hailing the agreement, but a number of the businesspeople who are supposed to benefit from it are skeptical. “Many of these governments depend on that duty income. I don’t see how that’s ever going to disappear,” says Tertius Carstens, the chief executive officer of Pioneer Foods Group Ltd., a South African maker of fruit juices and cereal that’s being acquired by PepsiCo Inc. for about $1.7 billion. “Politically it sounds good; practically it’s going to be a nightmare to implement, and I expect resistance.”

Under the rules, small countries such as Malawi, whose central government gets 7.7% of its revenue from taxes on international trade and transactions, will forgo much-needed income, at least initially. By contrast, relatively industrialized nations like Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa will benefit from the outset. “AfCFTA will require huge trade-offs from political leaders,” says Ronak Gopaldas, a London-based director at Signal Risk, which advises companies in Africa. “They will need to think beyond short-term election cycles and sovereignty in policymaking.”

Taking those disparities into account, the AfCFTA may allow poorer countries such as Ethiopia 15 years to comply with the trade regime, whereas South Africa and other more developed nations must do so within five. To further soften the effects on weaker economies, Africa could follow the lead of the European Union, says Axel Pougin de La Maissoneuve, deputy head of the trade and private sector unit in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Development and International Cooperation. The EU adopted a redistribution model to offset potential losses by Greece, Portugal, and other countries.

There may be structural impediments to the AfCFTA’s ambitions. Iron ore, oil, and other raw materials headed for markets such as China make up about half of the continent’s exports. “African countries don’t produce the goods that are demanded by consumers and businesses in other African countries,” says Trudi Hartzenberg, executive director of the Tralac Trade Law Center in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Trust and tension over illicit activity are also obstacles. Beginning in August, Nigeria shut its land borders to halt a surge in the smuggling of rice and other foodstuffs. In September, South Africa drew continentwide opprobrium after a recurrence of the anti-immigrant riots that have periodically rocked the nation. This could hinder the AfCFTA’s provisions for the free movement of people.

Considering all of these roadblocks, a skeptic would be forgiven for giving the AfCFTA little chance of success. And yet there are already at least eight trade communities up and running on the continent. While these are mostly regional groupings, some countries belong to more than one bloc, creating overlap. The AfCFTA won’t immediately replace these regional blocs; rather, it’s designed to harmonize standards and rules, easing trade between them, and to eventually consolidate the smaller associations under the continent­wide agreement.

The benefits of the comprehensive agreement are plain to see. It could, for example, limit the sort of unilateral stumbling blocks Pioneer Foods’ Carstens had to deal with in 2019: Zimbabwe insisted that all duties be paid in U.S. dollars; Ghana and Kenya demanded that shippers purchase special stickers from government officials to affix to all packaging to prevent smuggling.

The African Export-Import Bank estimates intra-African trade could increase by 52% during the first year after the pact is implemented and more than double during the first decade. The AfCFTA represents a “new pan-Africanism” and is “a pragmatic realization” that African countries need to unite to achieve better deals with trading partners, says Carlos Lopes, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and one of the architects of the agreement.

From his closer-to-the-ground vantage point, Olisaemeka Anieze also sees possible benefits. He’s relocating from South Africa, where he sold secondhand clothes, to his home country of Nigeria, where he wants to farm fish and possibly export them to neighboring countries. “God willing,” he says, “if the free-trade agreement comes through, Africa can hold its own.”

In the meantime, there are those roads. About 80% of African trade travels over them, according to Tralac. The World Bank estimates the poor state of highways and other infrastructure cuts productivity by as much as 40%.

If the AfCFTA can trim the red tape, at least driving the roads will be more bearable, says David Myende, 38, a South African trucker resting after crossing the border post into South Africa on the way back from delivering a load to the Zambian mining town of Ndola. “The trip is short, the borders are long,” he says. “They’re really long when you’re laden, and customs officers can keep you waiting up to four or five days to clear your goods.” 

Source: article by Anthony Sguazzin, Prinesha Naidoo and Brian Latham, Bloomberg, 30 January 2020

Insight: Transnet import/ export delays harming SA’s competitiveness

The following article provides insight into prevailing problems concerning rail transport between Durban and Johannesburg, in particular containerised and bulk rail cargo. Again, private enterprise is ahead of the game, but must wait for the availability of reliable rail services to permit uninterrupted movement of goods. The bottom line – an under-performing and unreliable railway network to South Africa’s hinterland means the country’s road networks will remain under stress; and, will themselves fall into a state of disrepair. This contributes to the country’s lack of competitiveness. The article puts into perspective the announcement of the Distribution Junxion, Port of Gauteng which will be situated south of Ekurhuleni, where it borders conveniently on the Durban-Johannesburg railway line.

Article: Hurry up/Wait: Transnet import and export delays harming SA’s competitiveness, authored by Sasha Planting, Daily Maverick, 16 February, 2020

China’s most ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative

View the high resolution version here!

Visual Capitalist – Costing between $4-8 trillion and affecting 65 countries, China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is the granddaddy of all megaprojects.

By the time of it’s estimated completion in 2049, OBOR will stretch from the edge of East Asia all the way to East Africa and Central Europe, and it will impact a lengthy list of countries that account for 62% of the world’s population and 40% of its economic output.

Today’s infographic from Raconteur helps visualize the initiative’s tremendous size, scale, and potential impact on Asian infrastructure.

The tangible concept behind OBOR is to build an extensive network of infrastructure – including railways, roads, pipelines, and utility grids – that help link China to the rest of Asia, as well as Africa and Europe. 

This multi-trillion dollar project will fill the infrastructure gap that currently inhibits economic growth potential on the world’s largest continent, but it has other important objectives as well. By connecting all of these economies together, China is hoping to become the gatekeeper for a new platform international trade cooperation and integration.

But that’s not all: if China’s economic corridor does what it’s supposed to, the countries in it will see more social and cultural links, financial cooperation, and a merger of policy goals and objectives to accomplish. 

Naturally, this will expand the clout and influence of China, and it may even create the eventual scaffolding for the renminbi to flourish as a trade currency, and eventually a reserve currency.

One Road or Roadblock?

When billions of dollars are at play, the stakes become higher. Although some countries agree with the OBOR initiative in principle – how it plays out in reality is a different story.

Most of the funding for massive deep-water ports, lengthy railroads, and power plants will be coming from the purse strings of Chinese companies. Some will be grants, but many are taking the form of loans, and when countries default there can be consequences.

In Pakistan, for example, a deep-water port in Gwadar is being funded by loans from Chinese banks to the tune of $16 billion. The only problem? The interest rate is over 13%, and if Pakistan defaults, China could end up taking all sorts of collateral as compensation – from coal mines to oil pipelines.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka was unable to pay its $8 billion loan for the Hambantota Port. In the middle of 2017, the country gave up the controlling interest in the port to a state-owned company in China in exchange for writing off the debt. China now has a 99-year lease on the asset – quite useful, since it happens to be right in the middle of one of China’s most important shipping lanes to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

Natural Opposition

While most economies in Asia are willing to accept some level of risk to develop OBOR, there is one country that is simply not a fan of the megaproject.

India, a very natural rival to China, has a few major qualms:

  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) goes right through Kashmir, a disputed territory
  • Chinese investment in maritime trade routes through the Indian Ocean could displace India’s traditional regional dominance
  • India sees the OBOR megaproject as lacking transparency

Meanwhile, with neighboring states such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan getting billions of dollars of investment from Chinese state-run companies, it likely creates one more issue that Indian Prime Minister Modi is not necessarily happy about, either.

Source: Original article by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist, published on 15 March 2018

AU – Online tool to remove Trade Barriers in Africa goes live

An online platform developed by UNCTAD and the African Union to help remove non-tariff barriers to trade in Africa became operational on 13 January.

Traders and businesses moving goods across the continent can now instantly report the challenges they encounter, such as quotas, excessive import documents or unjustified packaging requirements.

The tool, tradebarriers.africa, will help African governments monitor and eliminate such barriers, which slow the movement of goods and cost importers and exporters in the region billions annually.

An UNCTAD report shows that African countries could gain US$20 billion each year by tackling such barriers at the continental level – much more than the $3.6 billion they could pick up by eliminating tariffs.

“Non-tariff barriers are the main obstacles to trade between African countries,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, director of UNCTAD’s trade division.

“That’s why the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area depends in part on how well governments can track and remove them,” she said, referring to the agreement signed by African governments to create a single, continent-wide market for goods and services.

The AfCFTA, which entered into force in May 2019, is expected to boost intra-African trade, which at 16% is low compared to other regional blocs. For example, 68% of the European Union’s trade take place among EU nations. For the Asian region, the share is 60%.

The agreement requires member countries to remove tariffs on 90% of goods. But negotiators realized that non-tariff barriers must also be addressed and called for a reporting, monitoring and elimination mechanism.

The online platform built by UNCTAD and the African Union is a direct response to that demand.

Hands-on training

Complaints logged on the platform will be monitored by government officials in each nation and a special coordination unit that’s housed in the AfCFTA secretariat.

The unit will be responsible for verifying a complaint. Once verified, officials in the countries concerned will be tasked with addressing the issue within set timelines prescribed by the AfCFTA agreement.

Hands-on training

UNCTAD and the African Union trained 60 public officials and business representatives from across Africa on how to use the tool in December 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.

They practiced logging and responding to complaints, in addition to learning more about non-tariff barriers and their effects on trade and business opportunities.

“The AfCFTA non-tariff barriers mechanism is a transparent tool that will help small businesses reach African markets,” said Ndah Ali Abu, a senior official at Nigeria’s trade ministry, who will manage complaints concerning Africa’s largest economy.

UNCTAD and the African Union first presented tradebarriers.africa in July 2019 during the launch of the AfCFTA’s operational phase at the 12th African Union Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger.

Following the official presentation, they conducted multiple simulation exercises with business and government representatives to identify any possible operational challenges.

Lost in translation

One of the challenges was linguistic. Africa is home to more than 1,000 languages. So the person who logs a complaint may speak a different language from the official in charge of dealing with the issue.

Such would be the case, for example, if an English-speaking truck driver from Ghana logged a complaint about the number of import documents required to deliver Ghanaian cocoa to importers in Togo – a complaint that would be sent to French-speaking Togolese officials.

“For the online tool to be effective, communication must be instantaneous,” said Christian Knebel, an UNCTAD economist working on the project.

The solution, he said, was to add a plug-in to the online platform that automatically translates between Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Swahili – languages that are widely spoken across the continent. More languages are being added.

UNCTAD’s work on the AfCFTA non-tariff barriers mechanism is funded by the German government.

Source: UNCTAG.ORG, 17 January 2020

Australia and Singapore sign Customs Mutual Recognition Agreement

singapore_australia-flags

Companies that have been certified by the Singapore Customs for adhering to robust security practices can now enjoy a faster customs clearance process for goods that they export to Australia, the agency for trade facilitation and revenue enforcement said on Thursday.

In addition to the faster clearance process, certified Singapore firms will also be subject to reduced documentary and cargo inspections. The same will be applied to Australian companies that are certified by the Australian Border Force (ABF) for goods that they export to Singapore.

The move was recognised under a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) of Authorised Economic Operator programmes signed by Singapore Customs and the ABF on May 31 that aims to foster closer customs collaboration and elevate bilateral trade ties between the two countries.

The MRA comes under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership signed between Singapore and Australia in 2015. In addition, Singapore is the first Asean country to sign an MRA with Australia.

In its media statement on Thursday, Singapore Customs said: “The Australia-Singapore MRA recognises the compatibility of the supply chain security measures implemented by companies certified under Singapore Customs’ Secure Trade Partnership (STP) programme and the trusted companies of the ABF’s Australian Trusted Trader programme.”

The agreement was signed on Thursday by Singapore’s director-general of customs, Ho Chee Pong, and the commissioner of ABF and comptroller-general of customs, Michael Outram, in Singapore.

Mr Ho said: “The signing of this MRA reinforces the commitment of both our customs administrations to maintain the security of regional and global supply chains, and to facilitate legitimate trade undertaken by Authorised Economic Operators in both countries.

“As major trading partners, I am confident that this new MRA of our respective Authorised Economic Operator programmes will bring about much benefit to our businesses and boost bilateral trade.”

The signing of the Authorised Economic Operator-MRA will further strengthen closer cooperation at the borders and smoothen the passage of goods between our two countries of trusted traders.

Source: The Business Times (Singapore), original article by Navin Sregantan, 31 May 2018

 

ZIMRA – ASYCUDA failure set to cost in excess of $20M in lost revenue

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.

WCO launches new Transit Guidelines

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

Mozambique – Single Road Cargo Manifest Phase II

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

7,500km Marathon Journey for Chinese Silk Road train

The UK’s Daily Mail  reports the arrival of a freight train in east London has marked a new era for the 2,000-year-old trading route. It is the first freight train service from China to the UK. The route known as the ‘Silk Road’ once helped bring a wealth of goods from China to Europe.

The train pulled in to Barking after an 18-day journey from Yiwu, a wholesale market town in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. It had passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, finally crossing under the English Channel into Britain.

Laden with 68 twenty-foot equivalent containers, the train brought in a cargo of small commodities including household items, clothes, fabrics, bags, and suitcases.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, also known as The Belt and Road (abbreviated B&R), One Belt, One Road (abbreviated OBOR) or the Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy and framework, proposed by Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia, which consists of two main components, the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR). The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and its need for priority capacity cooperation in areas such as steel manufacturing. Wikipedia.

Ten containers were taken off at the German hub of Duisburg. The remainder arrived in London at Barking’s Eurohub freight terminal. The service is faster than sending goods by sea. Weekly trains will initially be run to assess demand.

A number of different locomotives and wagons were used as the former Soviet Union states have a larger rail gauge than the other countries involved. China Railway already has freight services to a number of European destinations, including Hamburg and Madrid.

They are part of China’s One Belt, One Road programme of reviving the ancient Silk Road trading routes to the West, initially created more than 2,000 years ago.

Run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, the Yiwu-London freight service makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China after the 2013 unveiling of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative by Chinese premier Xi Jinping.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May  said the relationship with China remains ‘golden’ as she seeks to bring in billions of dollars in Chinese investment as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. Read the full original Daily Mail article here!

WCO Workshop on Inland Depots in Lao PDR

inland-port-7The World Customs Organization (WCO) organized a National Workshop on Inland Depots under the sponsorship of the Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF)/Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It was held from 20 to 22 September 2016 in Savannakhet Province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Twenty six Customs officers from the Lao Customs Administration participated in the workshop, along with guest Customs experts from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Japan and JICA. Mr. Somphit Sengmanivong, Deputy Director General of the Lao Customs Administration, opened the workshop. He highlighted the importance of Inland Depots as a national strategy to secure his country’s economic growth and sought participants’ active participation in the discussions on this topic.

Presently, there is no clear definition of “Inland Depot” and many similar terms, such as Dry Port, Inland Terminal, Free Trade Zone and Special Economic Zones, are used in the international logistics. During the three-day workshop, participants discussed the functions and a possible definition of Inland Depot from a Customs perspective.

AmatiComment – Inland container terminals serve as important hubs or nodes for the distribution and consolidation of imported and export destined cargoes. There are 16 Landlocked countries in Africa, which signifies the importance of hinterland logistics development and its consequential impact on regional trade groupings. Consequentially, it behooves governments to understand and support the logistics supply chain industry in maximizing inland transportation (multi-modal) infrastructures to achieve a common and mutually beneficial economic environment. Furthermore, the more facilitative these arrangements, the better opportunity there is for success and longer-term economic sustainability.

The WCO Secretariat made presentations on international standards for relevant procedures, including Customs warehouses, free zones, Customs transit, inward processing, clearance for home use and temporary admission. Experts from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Japan described their national and regional experience of Customs warehousing, and Customs transit procedures. The JICA expert presented the bonded procedures applied by neighbouring countries to Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Lao Customs administration explained their national system for Inland Depots and a logistics company of Lao PDR shared its expectations on inland depots.

On the last day, participants discussed the challenges and possible solutions to enhance the functional and efficiency of Lao’s Inland Depots. Possible solutions, such as the use of modern information technology, further cooperation with the private sector, clear regulations on relevant procedures, coordinated border management and international cooperation were considered. Source: WCO

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High Aspirations for planned Tambo Springs Intermodal Hub

containersThe following was penned by a long-time customs acquaintance Aires Nunes da Costa, who has kindly permitted me to post his article titled “Why unpack containers in Durban if you can have containers at your door step in Gauteng within 24 hours?” which first appeared on LinkedIN.

The Tambo Springs initiative involves creating a significantly improved intermodal capability for the movement of freight to and from Gauteng. This is to be achieved by the operational twinning of the inland port with other seaport, inland and cross border locations. The connectivity i.r.o. these twinned locations is achieved via sea, rail, road and air linkages, ideally involving seamless movement of freight between modes.

The Tambo Springs development incorporates a next generation inland port with a state of the art rail terminal facility designed to be developed in phases, with an ultimate capacity of 1 m TEU’S p.a., as well as, a sprinter freight land bridge.

The key elements are as follows:-

Direct Traditional Rail Link to Durban Harbour

The Tambo Springs Terminal will be linked to the Durban Container Terminal which currently handles the bulk of all container freight moving in and out of Gauteng, via an efficient rail service. The fixed rail infrastructure for this link already exists to the Tambo Springs site. This state of the art Terminal facility is designed to significantly increase the rail capacity for container freight to/from Gauteng, while simultaneously reducing real costs and significantly improving levels of service via:

  • a new technology “greenfields” terminal being more efficient;
  • a reduction of congestion issues in and out of the new inland port due to its location;
    improved efficiency of port operations;
  • having the facility serviced by improved rolling stock commissioned by Transnet;
    Sprinter Freight Rail Link to Ngqura Harbour In the Coega IDZ (Port Elizabeth)

In addition to the direct rail link with Durban harbour, the initial phase of this programme involves the twinning of the Coega IDZ and its adjoining Deep Water Container Terminal at the Port of Ngqura with Tambo Springs. This is to be undertaken by means of a Public Private Partnership type structure which utilizes the Transnet capability between the two locations as well as the participation of SARS.

The service level to be achieved for the movement of the freight via this land bridge has a goal of “24 hours” as opposed to the current 3 to 5 days service level achieved at City Deep. This is to be achieved by capitalizing on the creation of high efficiency intermodal activities integrated with the port functions and feeder network.

Truck Freight Movement

The Tambo Springs Inland Port will function as a multimodal logistics gateway serving the Gauteng Catchment area. It therefore provides ease of movement between individual transportation modes in addition to facilitating manufacturing, warehousing and distribution activities.

The operational plan is therefore designed to accommodate long distance (FTL) truck traffic in addition to regional (LTL) freight movement.

The principle truck markets the inland port will attract include:

  • FTL long distance movement of time sensitive freight from other ports or metropolitan areas. This includes both cross docking and stuffing/de-stuffing facilities within the inland port;
  • Rail/truck (intermodal) movement where product utilizing the rail links is transferred to truck in order to each its final destination;
  • LTL truck and Van short distance movement of freight, including a regional metropolitan distribution function.

The next generation inland port therefore capitalizes both on rail and road transportation modes with a focus on increased movement of long distance freight by sprinter rail.

Intermodal Movement

In order to achieve seamless intermodal movement of freight between sea, rail, road and air transport, it is essential to link Tambo Springs with other inland port and hub locations. The creation of such a twinned Inland Port Network provides a means to effectively participate in the Global Supply Chain in a manner which optimizes both existing and new facilities to enhance capacity. Hence, for example, Tambo Springs would be linked to City Deep via rail and road linkages and to other hub locations in Gauteng and elsewhere.

A principle element of this approach is to create an efficient transportation service between all the individual entry/exit ports providing an improved level of service over and above that provided by a traditional network. The key to this is to rethink existing processes with a focus on efficiency savings in terms of the inbound and outbound process flow at Tambo Springs. This has been incorporated into the operational concept and addresses both operational and customs and regulatory efficiency issues as part of the supply chain. Source: Aires Nunes da Costa (Customs & Excise Specialist)

Transnet Seeks Private Sector Participation for new Inland Terminal

Tambo SpringsSouth Africa’s freight and logistics company Transnet this week launched its massive drive to bring private sector operators into the country’s freight system.

The company has issued a request for proposals inviting suitably qualified global logistics service providers to design, build, operate, maintain and eventually hand over its proposed inland container terminal in Tambo Springs, East of Johannesburg – a 630ha site located on land originally known as Tamboekiesfontein farm.

The concession will be over a 20-year period and will be Transnet’s biggest private sector participation project to date.

The proposed terminal is in line with Transnet’s drive to migrate rail friendly cargo off the country’s road network.

The terminal is expected to be in operation by 2019 and will have an initial capacity of 144 000 TEUs per annum, with an option to ramp it up to 560 000 TEUs, depending on demand.

The project entails the following:

  • Arrival and departure yard for handling cargo trains
  • Terminal infrastructure;
  • Terminal equipment;
  • Stacking area;
  • Warehousing space
  • Distribution centre
  • Inland Reefer facilities

Transnet Freight Rail will be responsible for the operation of the arrival and departure yard required to service the terminal.

The operator will be responsible for loading and offloading of containers and marketing of the facility. The winning bidder is expected to introduce new entrants – particularly black players – must have demonstrated technical expertise, a minimum of level 4 BBBEE status with a commitment to reach level 2 by the third year of operation.

Transnet currently operates 5 inland terminals in Gauteng, including the City Deep Container Terminal in Johannesburg, Africa’s largest inland port.

The proposed terminal is an integral part of the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee’s SIP 2, aimed at unlocking the country’s industrial development while boosting export capability. It is designed to complement Transnet’s container-handling capacity in the province.

This is the culmination of years of hard work and a demonstration of cooperative governance between Transnet, representing the national competence, and both the Gauteng Provincial Government and the Ekurhuleni Municipality.

The Tambo Springs terminal is one of three mega terminals that Transnet is planning to build in Gauteng over the next 20 years. It will be located in Ekurhuleni along the N3, just off the Natal Corridor.

The project is expected to create 50 000 jobs, and has stringent requirements for supplier development and skills transfer. Source: Transnet