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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

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Walvis Bay - making headway (www.transportworldafrica.co.za)

Walvis Bay – making headway (www.transportworldafrica.co.za)

The Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa has agreed to avail US$1,4 million for phase one of the construction of the country’s Walvis Bay dry port. The government of Namibia in September 2009 granted Zimbabwe 19 000 square metres of land to construct its own dry port that is expected to boost the country’s trade. The project is being spearheaded by the Road Motor Services, a subsidiary of the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

In an interview, RMS managing director Mr Cosmos Mutakaya said the Ministry of Industry and Commerce last month held a consultative meeting with Comesa to strategise on how to fund the project.

“Comesa is looking at funding projects with a regional integration element that countries within the Southern African Development Community would benefit from. In the last meeting we held, Comesa indicated their willingness to finance the first phase of the facility which will cost US$1,4 million,” he said.

He said all the relevant documentation had been submitted and they are now waiting for a response from Comesa.

Mr Mutakaya said construction of the dry port would be done in two phases. The first phase involves the civil works which includes construction of the drive-in weighbridge, storage shades, palisade fencing as well as installation of electric catwalks. Phase two involves the putting up of administration blocks. He said once phase one is completed, then the dry port operations will start.

“We are now waiting for the unlocking of funds from Treasury and Comesa for us to start construction. The Namibian contractor, Namport, will also start working on the port once the funds are made available. According to the contractor, phase one of the project is going to take five working months to complete,” Mr Mutakaya said.

He said the project, which was supposed to have been completed by May this year, had been stalled by the lack of funding.

An official at the Namibian desk office in the Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that operations at the port had stopped for a while due to a lack of funding. “Government has been facing challenges in making payments to the Walvis Bay Corridors Group, responsible for the construction at the port and operations had to be stopped for some time pending clearance of some outstanding fees by Government,” he said.

Trade for Zimbabwe via Walvis Bay has increased for the past few years and a large percentage of commodities are transported along this corridor. Zimbabwe’s trade volumes through the Port of Walvis Bay have grown significantly to more than 2 500 tonnes per month.

In a related development, the Namibian Ports Authority is also working on expanding Walvis Bay port and recently secured a US$338 million loan from the African Development Bank to finance the construction of a new container terminal at Port of Walvis Bay. The Namibian government also received US$1,5 million for logistics and capacity building complementing the port project loan. Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

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).

 

imfI can’t quite make up my mind on the following multilateral institution statement.  Is this a ‘call to action’ or a ‘call of desparation’? Clearly no amount of money and consultants will make this happen. Me thinks its more to do with the ‘National’ versus ‘Regional’ dilemma, and, the political will of sovereign governments to engage or trust the globalisation agenda. And…… time is running out!

These multilateral institutions issued the following joint statement today at the Annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF: African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, Inter, American Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank Group

“The Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia on 3-6 December 2013 offers an opportunity to conclude a WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement that will deliver tangible economic benefits for developing and least-developed countries. We urge WTO Members to seize this opportunity.

“At our meetings here in Washington we had the opportunity to discuss preparations for the Bali Ministerial meeting. We are encouraged by the renewed engagement by WTO members on trade facilitation and other issues of interest to developing countries, including least-developed countries.

“We would like to reiterate our strong collective commitment to support trade facilitation. A growing body of research points to the positive development impact of trade facilitation. Tackling inefficiency in clearing goods and shortening delays can reduce the cost of getting goods to market with positive effects on competitiveness and consumer welfare.

“Our institutions are engaged in a broad range of trade-related infrastructure projects. Since 2008, we have disbursed USD 22 billion in concessional support for economic infrastructure and building productive capacity in developing countries. With strong evidence that trade facilitation reforms help maximize the economic impact of our trade-related infrastructure assistance, our support to trade facilitation programs has more than doubled since 2008.

“A WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement would add significant momentum to efforts to increase developing country competitiveness, and provide a multilateral framework to shape and guide trade facilitation efforts taking place at the regional and national level. In July 2013, together with more than 20 other organizations and governments, we stated our strong commitment to support developing countries, and in particular least-developed countries, in the full and effective implementation of a WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

“We recognize that concerns persist in the negotiations about access to and coherence of assistance. We will work with the WTO and its members to help ensure that the new commitments that a trade facilitation agreement would bring are supported. We will also work to ensure that our support for the implementation of commitments is coordinated with our support for complementary infrastructure development.

“To implement a WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, we recognize we will need to discuss further how to ensure a coordinated and effective response to requests for support from developing countries, and in particular least-developed countries.” Source: International Monetary Fund

Rwanad-Burundi OSBPA one stop border post has been established at Ruhwa in Rusizi District order to reduce the amount of time spent by traders clearing goods at the Rwanda-Burundi border. The one-stop border post is also expected to bolster trade between the two countries and see an infrastructure overhaul at the border area, according to the Minister of State for Transport, Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana.

Under the one border post, travellers will access services at one spot unlike in the past when documents were processed at two locations – one in Rwanda and the other across the Burundi border. The process will now take about five minutes as opposed to 30.

With the new system, immigration, emigration and customs officials from the two countries share offices to ease the clearance procedures for travellers entering or departing either country.

Dr Nzahabwanimana observed that the post is an indication of existing good relations between the two countries and that it will “strengthen brotherhood between our peoples and boost trade between our two countries.”

“The post will ease the movement of people and goods,” Nzahabwanimana on Wednesday. “It will also reduce delays that people incurred while clearing at the border in the past.”

He urged employees to seize the opportunity and improve on the quality of services they provide. He also advised them to exploit modern technologies if they want to make a difference in what they do.

Burundi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works, Deogratias Rurimunzu described the move as “another step forward in the cooperation and friendship” between Rwanda and Burundi. He observed that the border will promote bilateral trade and cooperation abetween both countries.

“Work diligently, use your skills, pto provide better services and put these infrastructures to good use for them to benefit our population,” Rurimunzu told employees at the border post.

About the project

The idea to establish the one-stop border post was first floated in 2009. It is part of a larger project which comprises border infrastructures including administrative blocks, staff quarters, a warehouse, a weighbridge, social facilities, street lighting and water sources, among others.

The project also comprised the renovation of a 50.6 kilometre road between Nyamitanga and Ruhwa on the Burundian side as well as the construction of Ntendezi-Mwityazo Road on the Rwandan side.

The project was sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB), at a cost of about Rwf32billion on either side of the border. Ruhwa one stop border post is the second shared between Rwanda and Burundi following the establishment of the Gasenyi-Nemba border post in Bugesera district in 2011. Source: The New Times, Rwanda

I post this article given it ties together many of the initiatives which I have described in previous articles. The appears to be an urgency to implement these initiatives, but the real question concerns the sub-continent’s ability to entrench the principles and maintain continuity. At regional fora its too easy for foreign ministers, trade practitioners and the various global and financial lobbies to wax lyrical on these subjects. True there is an enormous amount of interest and ‘money’ waiting to be ploughed into such programs, yet sovereign states battle with dwindling skills levels and expertise. Its going to take a lot more than talk and money to bring this about.

South Africa is championing an ambitious integration and development agenda in Southern Africa in an attempt to advance what Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies describes as trade and customs cooperation within the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other regional trade organisations.

Central to pursuing this intra-regional trade aspiration are a series of mechanisms to combine market integration and liberalisation efforts with physical cross-border infrastructure and spatial-development initiatives. Also envisaged is greater policy coordination to advance regional industrial value chains. “Trade facilitation can be broadly construed as interventions that include the provision of hard and soft infrastructure to facilitate the movement of goods, services and people across borders, with SACU remaining the anchor for wider integration in the region,” Davies explains.

This approach is also receiving support from the US Agency for International Development (USAid), which recently hosted the Southern African Trade Facilitation Conference, held in Johannesburg.

Trade programme manager Rick Gurley says that virtually every study on trade in sub- Saharan Africa identifies time and cost factors of exporting and importing as the most significant constraints to regional trade potential. Limited progress has been made by SADC member States and SACU partners to tackle the factors undermining trade-based growth, limiting product diversification and increasing the price of consumer goods, including of foodstuffs. However, far more would need to be done to realise the full potential of intra-regional trade.

Regional Alliance
One high-profile effort currently under way is the Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA), which seeks to facilitate greater trade and investment harmonisation across the three existing regional economic communities of the SADC, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community.

The existing SADC FTA should be fully implemented by the end of the year, with almost all tariff lines traded duty-free and, if established, the T-FTA will intergrate the markets of 26 countries with a combined population of nearly 600-million people and a collective gross domestic product (GDP) of $1-trillion. At that size and scale, the market would be more attractive to investors and could launch the continent on a development trajectory, Davies avers. It could also form the basis for a later Africa-wide FTA and a market of some $2.6-trillion.

However, as things stand today, intra- regional trade remains constrained not merely by trade restrictions but by a lack of cross-border infrastructure, as well as poor coordination and information sharing among border management agencies such as immigration, customs, police and agriculture.Cross-national connectivity between the customs management systems is also rare, often requiring the identical re-entry of customs declarations data at both sides of the border, causing costly and frustrating delays.

USAid’s regional economic growth project, the Southern African Trade Hub, is a strong proponent of the introduction of several modern trade-facilitation tools throughout the SADC – a number of which have already been successfully pioneered. These tools, endorsed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Framework of Standards, which offers international best-practice guidelines, are aimed at tackling the high costs of exporting and importing goods to, from, and within Southern Africa, which has become a feature of regional trade and discouraged international investment.

Bringing up the Rear
A country’s competitiveness and the effec- tiveness of its trade facilitation regime are measured by its ranking on World Bank indices and, with the exception of Mozambique, Southern African States perform poorly – with most in the region settling into the lowest global quartile of between 136 and 164, out of a total of 183. “Our transaction costs in Africa across its borders are unacceptably high and inhibit trade by our partners in the private sector,” says WCO capacity building director Erich Kieck. “We need our States to develop good ideas and policies, but the true test lies in their ability to implement them,” he notes.

He adds that not only does trade facilitation require efficient customs-to-customs connectivity, but also demands effective customs-to-business engagement, adding that, while customs units are responsible for international trade administration, they are not responsible for international trade. “The private sector is the driver of economic activity and international trade, and government’s responsibility is to understand the challenges faced by the business community and develop symbiotic solutions,” Kieck notes.

Despite the establishment of regional trade agreements and regional economic communities in Southern Africa, many partner- ships have failed to deliver on their full potential to increase domestic competitiveness.

In a report, African Development Bank (AfDB) senior planning economist Habiba Ben Barka observes that, despite the continent’s positive GDP growth record – averaging 5.4% a year between 2005 and 2010 – it has failed to improve its trading position or integration into world markets. In 2009, Africa’s contribution to global trade stood at just under 3%, compared with nearly 6% for Latin America and a significant 28% for Asia.

“Since 2000, a new pattern of trade for the continent has begun to take centre stage, as Africa has witnessed an upsurge in its trade with the emerging Brazil, Russia, India and China economies. Overall, Africa is trading more today than in the past, but that trade is more with the outside world than internally,” says Ben Barka. She adds that while many African regional economic communities have made some progress in the area of trade facilitation, much greater effort is required to harmonise and integrate sub-regional markets.

To address enduring trade barriers, consensus among business, government and trade regulators appears to lean towards the adoption of one or a combination of five facilitation tools. These include the National Single Window (NSW), the One-Stop Border Post (OSBP), cloud-based Customs Connectivity, Coordinated Border Management (CBM) and Customs Modernisation Tools.

A National Single Window
NSWs connect trade-related stakeholders within a country through a single electronic-data information-exchange platform, related to cross-border trade, where parties involved in trade and transport lodge standardised trade-related information or documents to be submitted once at a single entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements.Mauritius was the first SADC country to implement the NSW and consequently improved its ranking on the ‘Trading Across Borders Index’ to 21 – the highest in Africa. It was closely followed by Ghana and Mozambique, which have also reported strong improvements.

Developed in Singapore, the benefits of government adoption include the reduction of delays, the accelerated clearance and release of goods, predictable application, improved application of resources and improved transparency, with several countries reporting marked improvement in trade facilitation indicators following the NSW implementation.

In South Africa, the work on trade facili-tation is led by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which focuses on building information technology (IT) connectivity among the SACU member States, and strengthen- ing risk-management and enforcement measures. However, SARS’ approach to the NSW concept remains cautious, Davies explains. “SARS has considered the viability of this option as a possible technological support for measures to facilitate regional trade, but considers that this would fall outside the scope of its current approach and priorities in the region,” he said.

One-Stop Border Posts
As reported by Engineering News in December last year, effective OSBPs integrate the data, processes and workflows of all relevant border agencies of one country with those of another, which culminates in a standardised operating model that is predictable, trans- parent and convenient. An OSBD success story in Southern Africa is the Chirundu border post, where a collaboration between the Zambia and Zimbabwe governments has culminated in a single structure, allowing officers from both States to operate at the same location, while conducting exit and entry procedures for both countries.

Launched in 2009, this OSBP model is a hybrid of total separation, joint border operations and shared facilities in a common control zone. Implementation of the model has reduced clearance times to less than 24 hours, significantly reduced fraudulent and illegal cross-border activity, enabled increased information sharing between border agencies and reduced the overall cost of export and import activities in the area.

Earlier this year, former South African Transport Minister Sibusisu Ndebele indicated that Cabinet was looking into establishing a mechanism that would bring all border entities under a single command and control structure to address the fragmentation in the country’s border operations, particularly at the high-traffic Beitbridge post between South Africa and Zimbabwe. “The ultimate vision is to create one-stop border operations to facilitate legitimate trade and travel across the borders,” he said.

Customs Connectivity and Data Exchange
Improved connectivity between customs limbs in sub-Saharan Africa has perhaps made the most indelible strides in the region, with improved IT connectivity between States identified as a priority by Sacu.

This includes customs-to-customs inter- connectivity, customs-to-business inter- connectivity and interconnectivity between customs and other government agencies. SACU members have agreed to pursue the automation and interconnectivity of their customs IT systems to enable the timely electronic exchange of data between administrations in respect of cross-border movement of goods. “As a consequence of this acquiescence, we have identified two existing bilateral connectivity programmes as pilot projects to assess SACU’s preferred connectivity approach, cloud computing between Botswana and Namibia and IT connectivity between South Africa and Swaziland,” says SACU deputy director for trade facilitation Yusuf Daya. He adds that a regional workshop was recently convened to explore business processes, functions, data clusters and the application of infrastructure at national level to improve and develop intra-regional links.

Coordinated Border Management
The SADC has been a strong proponent of CBM efforts in the region, which promotes coordination and cooperation among relevant authorities and agencies involved in, specifically, the protection of interests of the State at borders. “The union has drafted CBM guidelines for its members on implementation, based on international best practice, and has received indications of interest from several member States,” explains SADC Customs Unit senior programme officer Willie Shumba.He adds that CBM is a key objective of regional integration, enabling the transition from an FTA to a customs union and, eventually, to a common market, through effective controls of the internal borders.

Customs Modernisation
South Africa’s customs modernisation initiative is well advanced and came about following Sars’ accession to the WCO’s revised Kyoto Convention in 2004, which required customs agencies to make significant changes to it business and processing models. These changes included the introduction of simplified procedures, which would have fundamental effects on and benefits for trade and would require a modern IT solution.

Since its inception, the SARS Customs Modernisation Programme has gained tremendous momentum, with amendments to the Passenger Processing System and the replacement of SARS’s Manifest Acquittal System in the Automated Cargo Management system. Further adjustments were made to enable greater ease of movement of goods, faster turnaround times and cost savings, as well as increased efficiency for SARS. This phase included the introduction of an electronic case-management system, electronic submission of supporting documents, the centralisation of back-end processing in four hubs and an electronic release system and measures to enhance the flow of trucks through borders – in particular at the Lebombo and Beitbridge borders.

Proper Planning
AfDB’s Ben Barka warns that, prior to the implementation of any border improvement efforts by countries in Southern Africa, a thorough analysis and mapping of each agency’s existing procedures, mandate and operations should be undertaken.“Based on these findings, a new set of joint operational procedures need to be agreed upon by all involved agencies and must comply with the highest international standards,” she says.

Development coordination between States is essential, as the largest disparity among regional groupings, in terms of intra-regional trade, is clearly attributable to their differentiated levels of progress in various areas, including the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the freedom of movement of persons across borders and the development of efficient infrastructure. Source: Engineering News.

While on the theme of African economic and trade emancipation, it is interesting to consider the detailed analysis and evaluation occurring in regard to African continental readiness for information and communication technologies. One such study is the Transformation Ready or eTransform Africa programme, a joint programme of the African Development Bank and the World Bank, in partnership with the African Union. Bear in mind that the WCO and African Development Bank recently signed a cooperation agreement to enhance the capacity of Customs administrations in Africa. 

The study (Click Here!) is a series of  case studies of certain countries. The aim of the programme as a whole, as set out in the terms of reference, is to:

  • Take stock of emerging uses of ICT across sectors and of good practices in Africa and in other continents, including how ICTs are changing business models in strategic sectors.
  • Identify key ICT applications that have had significant impact in Africa or elsewhere and that have the potential of being scaled up, both from the public and private sectors.
  • Identify binding constraints that impact ICT adoption and scaling-up of effective models, such as the need to develop a regional culture of cyber security, and measures to address these constraints, including in relation to the role of different actors and stakeholders (private, public, development community, civil society, etc).
  • Commission a series of country case studies, to formulate a guide for rolling out and scaling up key applications in Africa, in each of the focus sectors, and thereby to identify opportunities for public/private partnership, as well as identifying areas where intervention can be reduced or eliminated.
  • Develop a common framework for providing support in ICT for development to countries that brings together the operations of the two Bank Groups and their respective departments.

The terms of reference for individual sectors were as follows:

  • Within each sector, identify specific opportunities and challenges in Africa that can possibly be addressed with an increased or better use of ICT. Constraints that are hindering ICT uptake and scale-up will be examined within the context of each sector/industry, including human capacity in IT skills and sustainable business models such as for public private partnerships (PPP). Further, the appropriate role of governments in the provision of priority ICT applications and services will be examined in order to maximize private sector development;
  • Undertake a quick scan of ICT applications in the different sectors and identify a few applications that have had significant impact in Africa or elsewhere and that have the potential of being scaled up. The scan should refer to a matrix of selection criteria on which to select case study countries that are considered ripe for the creation of public/private partnerships. On this basis, specific country case studies will be chosen – two to three per sector — on a representative basis, for deep dive analysis. The selection of case studies should be made in consultation with the partners and the other consultants. A workshop should be organized by the coordinator firm at an early stage in the project to finalise this selection.
  • Analyze and understand the barriers to the greater adoption and mainstreaming of ICTs. Barriers may include, for instance, low purchasing power, illiteracy, infrastructure constraints, lack of regulation, poorly functioning mobile ecosystem, power shortages, political instability etc. Identify cases/examples on how these have been dealt with;
  • Analyze and understand the enabling factors of success, including political economy, policy, institutional, human, financial and operational factors;
  • Consider the option of developing multi-country programs or special facilities that would allow fast-tracking specific programs across countries;
  • Provide guidelines on designing appropriate and sustainable ICT components for sector projects (including building effective public and private partnerships) and on evaluating the impact of these interventions; and
  • Propose a course of action on how to include ICT in policy dialogue and planning with country counterparts on sectoral development goals and priorities. Experiences and best practices from other regions will be drawn upon to define the role of the public sector, bearing in mind that government is increasingly positioned as a lead user of ICTs as well as a regulator of the sector.
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The following article provides a disturbing – some would call it conspiracy theory – on what lies in store for the continent of Africa. Perhaps the colonial days will be viewed as mild should some of the suggested schemes materialise.

You may recall earlier this year the African Development Bank and the WCO agreed to a partnership to advance the economic development of African countries by assisting Customs administrations in their reform and modernization efforts.

The AfDB’s regional infrastructure financing and the WCO’s technical Customs expertise will complement each other and improve the efficiency of our efforts to facilitate trade which includes collaboration in identifying, developing and implementing Customs capacity building initiatives by observing internationally agreed best practice and supporting Customs cooperation and regional integration in Africa.

In addition, the partnership will seek to promote a knowledge partnership, including research and knowledge sharing in areas of common interest, as well as close institutional dialogue to ensure a coherent approach and to identify comparative advantages as well as complementarities between the WCO and AfDB. Customs professionals, trans-national transporters and trade practitioners will find the featured article of some interest. It provides a synopsis of the key inhibitors for trade on the continent, and will hopefully mobilise “African expertise” in the provision of solutions and capacity building initiatives.

Brussels, 30, January 2012 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) will work together, to enhance the capacity of Customs administrations in Africa. This declaration was made today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the signing ceremony of a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding, on the margins of the 18th African UnionSummit. The summit, which is taking place in Ethiopia from 23-30 January, is focusing on boosting intra-African trade – an area in which Customs administrations can play a vital role in strengthening national and regional economies in Africa.

The enhanced cooperation between AfDB and the WCO will help advance the economic development of African countries by assisting Customs administrations in their reform and modernization efforts.

The partnership includes collaboration in identifying, developing and implementing Customs capacity building projects by observing internationally agreed best practices and supporting Customs cooperation and regional integration in Africa. For the full article follow this link or the WCO News feed below in the left margin.