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Picture2The International Trade Centre has prepared a guide to help businesses take advantage of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. The agreement simplifies customs procedures, allowing businesses to become more competitive. This jargon-free guide explains the provisions with a focus on what businesses need to know to take advantage of the agreement. It will also help policy makers identify their needs for technical assistance to implement and monitor it. To download the guide – click the following link: http://www.intracen.org/wto-trade-facilitation-agreement-business-guide-for-developing-countries/.

For instance, the guide explains how the article on ‘Advance rulings’ aims to address problems with inconsistent classification of goods by customs officials and the uncertainty it creates for traders. ‘Advance rulings are binding decisions by customs…on the classification and origin of the goods in preparation for importation or exportation. Advance rulings facilitate the declaration and consequently the release and clearance process, as the classification has already been determined in the advance ruling and is binding to all customs officers for a period of time,’ the guide explains. It goes on to list in jargon-free language the obligations and the procedure imposed on customs authorities related to advance rulings.

Reducing the on-the-spot decision making authority of individual customs agents thanks to advance rulings will also reduce bribery, the guide says. Corruption continues to be a key problem for developing-country exporters, who identified it as a major constraint on exports in a recent survey conducted by ITC.

The last chapter of the guide describes how the agreement will be implemented, including the special and differential treatment provisions that developing countries may invoke. Developing countries will be able to link the implementation of the commitments to technical assistance and support from donors. WTO member states will have to explicitly apply for delays for each commitment, which will need to be approved by the WTO and the implementation schedule published.

Source: International Trade Centre

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Picture1There is nothing nebulous about the “cloud”, especially as it applies to developing countries, a new UNCTAD report says. For businesses and governments in poorer nations to benefit from cloud computing’s increasingly rapid and more flexible supply of digitized information – the sort of thing that enables online marketers to rapidly scale up their information systems in tune with fluctuations in demand – massive, down-to-earth data processing hardware is required. Also needed is extensive broadband infrastructure, as well as laws and regulations that encourage the investment needed to pay for advanced information and communication technology (ICT) facilities and to protect users of cloud services.

UNCTAD’s Information Economy Report 2013, subtitled The Cloud Economy and Developing Countries, was released on 3 December 2013.

Referring to cloud computing, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states in the preface to the report: “This has considerable potential for economic and social development, in particular for our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to define a bold agenda for a prosperous, sustainable and equitable future.”

The report shows that cloud computing offers the potential for enhanced efficiency. For example, cloud provisioning may enable small enterprises to outsource some of the information technology (IT) skills that they would otherwise have to provide internally. Companies can benefit from greater storage and computing capacity, as well as the expertise of cloud service providers in areas such as IT management and security.

But the study notes that options for cloud adoption in low- and middle-income countries look very different from those in more advanced countries. While free cloud services such as webmail and online social networks are already widely used in developing nations, the scope for cloud adoption in low- and middle-income economies is much smaller than it is in more advanced economies. In fact, the gap in availability of cloud-related infrastructure between developed and developing countries keeps widening. Access to affordable broadband Internet is still far from satisfactory in developing nations, especially in the least developed countries (LDCs). In addition, most low-income countries rely on mobile broadband networks that are characterized by low speed and high latency and therefore not ideal for cloud service provision.

The report recommends that governments “welcome the cloud but tread carefully”. Within the limits of their resources, infrastructure such as costly data centres must be constructed; at present, developed economies account for as much as 85 per cent of all data centres offering co-location services.

The cloud’s pros and cons

In simple terms, cloud computing enables users to access a scalable and elastic pool of data storage and computing resources, as and when required. Rather than being an amorphous phenomenon in the sky, cloud computing is anchored on the ground by the combination of the physical hardware, networks, storage, services and interfaces that are needed to deliver computing as a service.

The shift towards the cloud has been enabled by massively enhanced processing power and data storage, and higher transmission speeds. For example, some central processing units today are 4,000 times faster than their equivalents from four decades ago, and consumer broadband packages are almost 36,000 times faster than the dial-up connections used when Internet browsers were introduced in 1993.

The potential advantages of cloud computing include reduced costs for in-house equipment and IT management, enhanced elasticity of storage/processing capacity as required by demand, greater flexibility and mobility of access to data and services, immediate and cost-free upgrading of software, and enhanced reliability and security of data management and services.

But there are also potential costs or risks associated with cloud solutions. The UNCTAD report mentions costs of communications (to telecom operators/Internet service providers) and for migration and integration of new cloud services into companies’ existing business processes, reduced control over data and applications, data security and privacy concerns, risks of services being inaccessible to targeted users, and risks of “lock-in” with providers in uncompetitive cloud markets.

Policymakers should waste no time in exploring how the cloud computing trend may affect their economies and societies, UNCTAD recommends. Countries need to assess carefully how best to reap gains from this latest stage in the evolving information economy. In principle, UNCTAD sees no general case for government policy and regulation to discourage migration towards the cloud. Rather, governments should seek to create an enabling framework for firms and organizations that wish to migrate data and services to the cloud, so that they can do so easily and safely. But government policies should be based on a careful assessment of the pros and cons of cloud solutions, and should recognize the diversity of business models and services available. The report underlines that there are multiple ways of making use of cloud technology, including public, private or hybrid clouds, at national, regional and global levels. Source: UNCTAD

Container terminal (CT1) with Nordschleuse in ...

Container terminal (CT1) with Nordschleuse in the foreground, Bremerhaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Port Technology International’s article is perhaps poignant to current logistics developments in South Africa. Optimisation at the terminal does not only mean improving productivity and reducing operational costs. Optimisation represents a new approach to managing container terminals; it is the most significant driving factor in changing the traditional operational approach and methodology applied at container terminals. It also allows terminals to have a focus on efficiency which needs to address the trade-off between vessel service time, terminal capacity, and cost per move.

In terms of the marine shipping industry, one of the most accurate definitions of optimisation is: “The act of making a system, design or decision as effective or functional as possible.” Optimisation as a discipline is an ancient science best illustrated over time.

The history of optimisation

Greek mathematicians used to solve optimisation problems related to geometrical studies. After the invention of calculus, mathematicians were then able to address more complex optimisation problems. Following the start of the World War II and the advent of the operations research field, the concept and practice of optimisation began to develop and received significant academic and industrial focus. Mr J. Von Neumann, a leading individual behind the development of operations research, contributed substantially to the field of algorithmic research. And in the 60s and 70s, complexity analysis began to further support the use of optimisation. Then, in the 80s and 90s as computers became more efficient, algorithms for global optimisation with the purpose of solving large-scale problems began to gain momentum and credibility.

Considering the present

The continual advancements in technology with respect to computing power along with significant research in applied mathematics and computer science have solidified the value of optimisation to the industry and the end user. This has enabled advanced theory to be applied in a way that has sometimes invisibly improved our lives during last 20 years. The progress is amazing. Today, companies such as UPS and Federal Express utilise complex routing algorithms for resource allocation and supply chain distribution to deliver an item to our door with seamless efficiency. Their results have in turn changed the way millions of us find information, shop, and even do our jobs.

Today, many industries use optimisation as a more general term that covers areas from manufacturing process efficiency to improved distribution techniques. The core objective of optimisation is improving and controlling the process – whatever it may be – and allowing people with responsibilities in those areas to make better decisions. Operations research, for example, is a discipline that deals with the application of advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions at the right time and within the time constraints of a live operation.

As with other industries, the shipping and container space is currently going through its own step change to achieve new levels of operational productivity in response to mega-trends, such as globalisation and sustainable operations. To compete, ports and terminals have decided they need to adapt to their changing demands by optimising their activities in areas such as berthing allocation, vessel planning, fleet size optimisation, shift resource planning and equipment scheduling. All of these areas are critical for minimising the cost per move factors and maximising overall terminal performance and throughput.

Optimisation also provides the intelligence and the tools to support this changing industry, but it is not meant to be a black box. A container terminal is a very complex system with many unpredictable variables. Those focused on achieving optimisation will need to be able to control, monitor and configure the behaviour of this intelligence behind the machine and systems, filling any critical gaps between the planning and execution.

Containerised cargo makes up about 60 percent of all dry cargo trade in the world; since the advent of the cargo container more than 50 years ago, this number continues to grow. The appeal of containerised cargo is well known – cargo can be seamlessly transported from origin to destination via a variety of modes without the need to unload and reload its contents. The marine container terminal is at the junction of water, rail and truck transport modes. And as a consequence, marine container terminals are some of the most essential, yet challenging, links in the global supply chain. Source: Port Technology International

The following article is a lesson for all aspiring enterpeneurs on the African continent.

I got curious about the small, mostly unnoticed item in Kigali, what we like to call ‘cure-dent’, the tooth pick. This is how I stumbled onto the fact that we import toothpicks. Yes we import toothpicks from China. Toothpicks here are a symbol for all the things we could make ourselves but import.

toothpicksIt got me wondering – just how complicated is it to make a toothpick? Firstly, toothpicks are made from bamboo and we have plenty of that in Musanze. In any case bamboo can be cultivated. It grows fast and there are new genetically modified reach heights of over 15 metres. A little time on Google showed me that it does not take very much to make them. Indeed the whole process can be done in a woodwork workshop. The process from splitting the bamboo to sharpening the toothpicks takes less than half an hour. That is about 100 packets of toothpicks.

The reason we give for imported stuff is supposedly because we do not have the technology required to make it. This is clearly not true in this case, and, I bet, in the case of a lot of other imports.

Toothpicks are very cheap. They go for between Rwf100 and Rwf500 for each small packet. This is after all the manufacture, freight, taxes and, of course, the shopkeeper’s profits have been considered. Maybe this is why we consider it not to be a profitable venture. Would making toothpicks be profitable? The answer is yes. Let us consider two reasons.

One – the Chinese are not known for time wasting. If they would engage in this enterprise to this extent, they must be something in it. Two – consider being able to make 100 packs of toothpicks in half an hour.

That makes 200 per hour and 1600 per eight hour day (you are by no means tied to this. If you sell them at Rwf50 per pack, you will be grossing Rwf80,000 per day. Now that is profit!

Where is the market? Are we not in the East African Community? We have to start exporting beyond the agricultural produce. Why is urwagwa and akabanga not on the shelves of Kenyan, Ugandan, Tanzanian and Burundian shops?

Why are we always importing? If we are importing toothpicks what do we not import? Unfair Balance of Trade and its accompanying Balance of Payments in addition to aid dependency are the main propagators of poverty in our country. They give us aid… .we use it to buy their products, down to toothpicks!

If we are to make it to self-sufficiency we have to manufacture and export. The journey to self-sufficiency must precede self-reliance. As Bob Marley would say, “We gotta be conscious”.

Article by Sam Kebongo writing for the Rwanda New Times.

sezFree zones are often seen as a cure-all remedy to the problems developing economies encounter when trying to attract FDI. However, the reality is that such projects need careful planning and long-term support if they are to fulfil such wishes. A report published by fDI Magazine, and featured online – fdiintelligence.com – covers the topic quite comprehensively. While the article it is titled ‘Free Zones’ it’s not quite certain whether all developments sited follow the same business model. Nonetheless it provides some interesting insight to developments across the globe. Of particular interest for Africa are references to developments in Rwanda, Botswana, and the Gambia. In the case of the latter, the Gambian government’s decision to legally enable companies to operate as standalone zones, whereby businesses are permitted to enjoy the benefits of being a ‘free zone’ entity without having to establish in the country’s business park, could enable Gambia to attract investors who wish to have a greater degree of choice over the location of their premises.

Some of the key messages of the article come in the form of cautionary’s –

“the ‘build it and they will come’ assumption over SEZs will not guarantee investor interest”

“while governments are quick to launch them with great fanfare, a lack of on-going support afterwards hinders the zone from developing to a competitive and world-class standard…many projects remain just that – a project”

“while the idea of clustering several companies from a few specific sectors sounds promising on paper, in practice this can be detrimental to foreign enterprises”.

Read the full report here!

The fifth annual congress of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) takes place on 8-9 October 2013 at the Hilton, Sandton.

David Logan - SAAFF

David Logan – SAAFF

David Logan, CEO of SAAFF says, “The freight forwarding market has been a major beneficiary of an increasingly globalised world economy. The significant year-on-year growth in international trade volumes has driven the evolution of the freight forwarder, inherently linked to the success of global trade and the development of new markets.  Against this backdrop, it hardly seems surprising that the congress continues to grow and attract robust debate from key players in the market.  This year’s event also receives the endorsement and support of the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA), which represents the multi-billion Rand South African courier industry, another major role player in facilitating global business.”

“Having long-abandoned the image of transport intermediaries, today’s freight management logistics providers manage an array of complex functions and issues, being responsible for an entire array of services within the supply chain. The two-day congress will highlight and debate many of the pressing issues from customs modernization, security, piracy, supply chain efficiencies, trade credit, risk management, political risk, legislation, FAIS, economic trading factors, transformation, training and in-demand skills and more.”

“Our industry is also in a unique position to tap into the incredible growth currently shaping the African continent where some of the fastest growing economies reside.  Added to this the rapid reconstruction and development projects taking place throughout the continent will rely heavily on the services of freight forwarders.  Africa’s abundance of commodities is estimated to generate about a third of Africa’s growth.  All this requires trusted partners in the movement of goods to facilitate global trade, and the forwarders best positioned to capitalise on this are those that have robust infrastructures, global capability, solid expertise and a deep understanding of trade in African countries, which is not without its fair share of risk,” adds David.

“Global pressures on world markets are impacting on our members and the congress is an ideal platform to really get to grips with the realities and challenges of our current trading environment.  It’s an ideal platform for sponsors and suppliers to engage directly with the senior decision makers of freight forwarding companies, government, suppliers and policy makers,” he concludes.

Running alongside the congress will be a two-day industry supplier exhibition as well as a one day training and education workshop on Tues 8 October covering important issues regarding skills development, industry qualifications, talent management, training, BBBEEand more – all critical issues for HR managers and directors in the freight forwarding industry. For more information about the congress or to book your seats contact the congress organisers, Teresa Settas Communications on (011) 894 2767 or e-mail nadine@tscommunications.co.za. Source: transportworldafrica.co.za

services_import_SnapseedActually, this is a view from the Ukraine. In modern practice, the organisation of the transport process often necessitates direct international multimodal transportation, in which case the freight forwarder carries out the contract of carriage as a multimodal transport operator, even if it does not directly own any vehicles. However, a trend has arisen in which the functions of the carrier and forwarder are combined. Under this model, traditional carriers diversify their activities by creating a forwarding unit within their companies, or forwarding agents acquire vehicles or create dependent carriers. Furthermore, forwarders often hire subcontractors to undertake the shipment; as a result, cases of loss or shortage of goods and claims against forwarding agents can become quite complicated. 

General provisions

Ukrainian legislation does not provide detailed rules governing freight-forwarding activities. The Law on Freight-Forwarding Activities, the Civil Code and the Economic Code stipulate only the general regulations of freight forwarding.

In accordance with Clause 1 of the Law on Freight Forwarding Activities, the contract of freight forwarding is a contract in which the freight forwarder agrees, at the client’s behest, to perform or arrange for the performance of certain contract work related to the transportation of goods. The forwarding agent is entitled to engage other parties for the execution of certain work under the contract (eg, transportation, storage, loading and unloading).

The law includes only general provisions under which the freight forwarder may be held liable to the customer (unless provided otherwise in the contract) for:

  • the number of packages;
  • the weight of the packages (if the weighing was conducted in the presence of the carrier and confirmed with its signature); and
  • packaging requirements under the related shipping documents (signed by a representative of the carrier).

Issues regarding the forwarder’s liability are also governed by the general provisions of the Civil Code, which provides for liability for breach of obligations under the contract. Thus, Article 623 of the code provides that a debtor in breach of its obligations must compensate the creditor for losses caused.

Where the freight forwarder engages third parties to fulfil its obligations under the contract of freight forwarding, the forwarding agent will be held fully responsible for the actions and omissions of the third parties.

Ukrainian law lacks specific rules that directly limit the freight forwarder’s liability to the client. Detailed rules governing the forwarding agent’s liability to the customer, as well as grounds and limitations of such liability, are fixed by the parties in the contract of freight forwarding.

At the same time, Ukrainian legislation contains general rules that allow for the release of the freight forwarder from liability. In accordance with Clause 614 of the Civil Code, a party that has violated its obligations will be held responsible only if found guilty (intently or negligently), unless otherwise agreed in the contract. Disputes in connection with claims against freight forwarders for loss of cargo in transit are common in Ukraine, so there is ample case law in the area. However, since Ukrainian legislation provides only general provisions on the freight forwarder’s liability, court practice for such disputes is often ambiguous and contradictory. In particular, there have been separate cases with similar circumstances in which the court variously found the freight forwarder both liable and not liable for cargo loss in transit. Continue Reading…

Passport is a global market research database providing statistics, analysis, reports, surveys and breaking news on industries, countries and consumers worldwide. Passport connects market research to your company goals and annual planning, analyzing market context, competitor insight and future trends impacting businesses worldwide. And with 90% of our clients renewing every year, companies around the world rely on Passport to develop and expand business opportunities, answer critical tactical questions and influence strategic decision making.
Passport offers and examines:

  • Detailed analysis of consumer and industrial markets around the world across 781 cities, 210 countries, and 27 industries with historic data from 1997 and forecasts through 2020. Passport data is completely cross-country comparable.
  • Industry analysis across fast moving consumer goods and services, including market performance, market size, company and brand shares and profiles of leading companies and brands
  • Industrial makeup of the world’s largest economies, examining business to business economic influences and the forces behind strategy development, production and supply chains, economic modeling and forecasting, econometrics, data mining, scenario planning, urban economics and wealth distribution.
  • Data and analysis on consumer lifestyles, population trends, and socioeconomic analysis for every country, lifestyle and consumer type down to the city level
  • Timely commentary on factors influencing the global, regional and local business environment.
  • Surveys exploring consumer opinions, attitudes and behaviours.

Source: Euromonitor.com

e-Invoicing INTTRA

Rod Agona, Managing Director, Electronic Invoicing, INTTRA explains three reasons why it is time for ocean carriers and shippers to say goodbye to paper. This follows the recent announcement by IATA on the introduction of its eAWB initiative.

In a digital age where a delay of seconds or one human error can be the cause of lost revenue, wasted resources or unhappy customers, good technology becomes critical to run a business.

Twelve years after the ocean shipping industry adopted e-commerce tools that resulted in an average savings of $100,000 per year and hundreds of thousands of labor hours per week, the final step in the shipping process – invoicing and payment – are still catching up. Surprisingly, invoices are still largely processed by hand in the ocean shipping sector. Considered the most tedious and costly step in the shipping process, manual invoicing can take days to complete and is often riddled with disputes and errors. And the amount of time it takes to manage disputes is more than anyone is comfortable admitting – knowing each delayed payment impacts carrier cash flow and creates dissatisfied shipping customers.

With electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing), there is a potential 50-80 percent cost savings according to the E-Invoicing/E-Billing 2012 Report from the international e-billing firm, Billentis, and the payment process is significantly shortened with DSO (days sales outstanding) typically decreasing by up to 10 days. Error rates are also greatly reduced, and customer satisfaction increased.

Although e-Invoicing as a trend has picked up rapidly in government and commercial sectors in the past three years (growing at a rate of 20 percent last year, according to the Billentis report), many in the ocean shipping sector are just catching wind of the benefits. Popularity among players is expected to grow this year – both on the biller and payer sides. Three reasons for the industry’s recent e-Invoicing surge are:

1. Demand Is at a Record High

At least 81 percent of the world’s largest shippers are requesting electronic invoices from their carriers in 2013, says a 2012 global shipping study conducted by INTTRA, the world’s largest ocean shipping network. The demand to move away from paper invoicing has never been greater, with shippers claiming to be “ready now and actively seeking e-Invoicing from their business partners.”

2. Proven to Lower Costs and Speed Internal Operations

Shippers’ biggest complaints with paper invoicing are 1) managing disputes, 2) the time and costs required to process invoices, and 3) correcting invoice inaccuracies. e-Invoicing is proven to alleviate these concerns by streamlining the entire settlement process, improving accuracy, and reducing the costs and labor required to process manual invoices. Payers end up happier as a result, receiving faster and improved communications and lowering the true total cost of doing business. For carriers, e-Invoicing is proven to cut costs and improve cash flow and working capital – and investments are often gained back within six months.

Both shippers and carriers want a solution to better manage high-volume transactions. Imagine spending millions of dollars on a global SAP (or equivalent) rollout and still manually keying in a half-million invoices per year. There is a better way.

3. It May Soon Be Mandatory (if it isn’t already)

Shipping companies are trying to keep up with rapidly changing local and international trade regulations, and e-commerce shipping is the smart way to stay compliant. Countries like Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have already made electronic invoicing mandatory for all business-to-government transactions. Most others in Europe, North America and Australia are increasingly adopting electronic invoicing due to its cost-saving benefits.

Companies that act today put themselves at a competitive advantage as they are able to put their savings back to work and redirect employees engaged in manual processing to higher value tasks.

Looking Forward – 2013 and Beyond

The tipping point for when a technology ‘best practice’ becomes a ‘must have’ is never clear-cut – until an industry struggles as much as ours has. Change is hard, but for an industry with few proven solutions to remove costs, e-Invoicing is a viable, must-have solution.

2013 is a critical year for the ocean shipping industry. It is expected to be a year of major change in the way carriers and shippers do business. Competition is growing fiercer, and the industry continues to consolidate. e-Invoicing is one way to cut costs and reallocate dollars to where they are needed most in today’s challenging environment. Source: Maritime-Executive.com

For information, visit http://www.inttra.com/e-invoicing.

NigerianCustoms-BadgeAs part of plans to consolidate on its modernisation efforts for eventual take-over from the service providers at the expiration of the extended contract by June 2013, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says it has developed a web-based application to provide information and guidance for international trade business processors in the areas of import, export and transit trade.

The portal is a non-restrictive online medium and an intuitive and interactive platform for classifying goods, a statement from the Customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi said yesterday. The portal was developed by the service’s technical partners, nominated officers as well as other stakeholders, it said.

Through the platform, trade processors are enabled to find exact Harmonized System Codes (HS Codes) required for related tariffs and duties. It is expected that the platform will enhance compliance by traders and avail them the required information on tariff, prohibited items as well as taxes/levies due for payment upon importation.

Adeniyi explained also that the application has been designed to boost trade facilitation by granting trade processors access to information from all related government agencies. “Guidelines and procedures for obtaining permits, licences and certificates of specified commodity and country of origin that a trade will require for business processing is available on the portal,”he said. He added that the portal further allows traders to convert currencies to exchange rates set by the Central Bank of Nigeria on a monthly basis, make payments and simulate tax. Source: The Daily Trust

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates' Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates‘ Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, reports Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates’ Geo Partner in South Africa. Unlike many other countries, South Africa was cushioned from the full impact of the world financial crisis thanks to the strict pre-existing credit controls it had in place. There were some knock on affects from close trading economies but over the last 15 months South Africa has enjoyed a growth economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) say this group will account for 61 per cent of global growth in three years time.

While South Africa’s economy (£506.91bn GDP) is dwarfed by those of the original BRIC constituents, the country is seen as the gateway to the continent of Africa, which as a whole has an equivalent sized economy ($2,763bn GDP), a population of one billion and rich resources. This has all made it a valued investment region for China in particular.

However, there are many cultural, logistical and geographical challenges the further one travels North from South Africa towards the Sahara. As an example, while there is 24,487 km of rail track in South Africa, there is just 259 km in Uganda; there are 92 mobile phones per 100 people in South Africa but just two per 100 in Eritrea. However, there is a great deal of raw potential, especially in countries such as Angola and Nigeria.

Participation in BRICS will drive a new competitiveness for South Africa and a key factor will be developing world-class supply chain management. Unlike in Europe, the US and Australia, few supply chain directors in South Africa sit on the board, which makes it harder for them to demonstrate how effective management of the supply chain can deliver competitive advantage. But this is likely to change as companies realise that they must align their supply chain and business strategies. If the recession failed to drive home the need for this, then the presence of Chinese companies in Africa will create significant pressure to do so.

This was an observation of the 2011 Supply Chain Foresight survey, conducted by Frost & Sullivan, which annually samples the opinions of South African supply chain executives. It found that while over three quarters of the respondents feel that the supply chain and business strategies of their companies are aligned, less than a third felt that the supply chain and logistics operations are fully optimised. Businesses are looking at how to optimise their distribution networks through building new facilities, streamlining existing processes or collaboration between trading partners. This has seen a lot of current activity surrounding warehouse management systems, forecasting, planning, replenishment and collaboration technologies, in particular.

Two thirds of respondents are considering investment in technology to enable collaboration with service providers. With the recession claiming many key suppliers the environment is changing from one where major companies squeeze suppliers on cost to one where they adopt a more collaborative approach. Cost reduction was the focus of the past recession, but now the objective is to satisfy customer expectations and to deliver value. Just over half of respondents to the Supply Chain Foresight survey cited customer service as the top supply chain objective. Reducing waste and improving efficiency in the supply chain are the perennial shorter term challenges with companies looking for better forecasting and planning tools to bring down inventory and shorten lean times. One interesting aspect of South African supply chain technology is the large number of in-house designed legacy systems, which is a consequence of the country’s isolation during the times of Apartheid. A propensity towards in-house designed systems remains today.

In terms of industry sectors, retail dominates but it remains firmly entrenched in the traditional channels. While some retailers have online retail websites, online and multi-channel is by no means a significant part of the current retail picture. Internet use is still quite low compared to other countries there are 4.42 million internet users in a population of 49 million and this figure is expected to remain low for some time yet. A further obstacle to the expansion of online sales is a high crime rate which leads to security issues in delivering goods to customers.

Wholesale distribution is quite small in size and complexity so the supply chain challenges tend not to be too complicated. There remain companies that feel they have been reasonably successful – being self-sufficient – and want to maintain that approach, along with a general tendency to look within, when it comes to benchmarking supply chains. However, a growing number of companies in South Africa recognise that there are other organizations across the globe doing similar things, but perhaps, a lot more efficiently.

Supply chain managers within these businesses are evolving a mindset focused on global best practice and the means of achieving it. These South African companies want to be best in their class. By building knowledge, benchmarking and improving against those benchmarks the win for this retailer is a supply chain that gives competitive advantage. As in other countries, companies looking to benefit from external expertise and a reduction in their capital costs will often outsource their logistics to third party logistics (3PL) operators. South Africa has numerous small local players and a handful of large lead logistics providers who tend to drive innovation. It is a small but highly competitive market. Logistics infrastructure and skills shortage in the supply chain continue to be huge issues in South Africa. The Supply Chain Foresight survey found that to deal with the skills shortage, in almost all areas companies either expose employees to new jobs through rotation, or development programs, or mentoring. These are generally in-house driven schemes. South Africa is an emerging market that is growing fast and offers a tremendous wealth of opportunities. In fact, the country has a great many successful businesses, and while many talk about becoming world class, many have already achieved it. Source: Supply Chain Junction

2012 World's Container Ports With Most Potential (Mercator)

2012 World’s Container Ports With Most Potential (Mercator)

According to the Shanghai International Shipping Institute’s (SISI) ‘Global Port Development Report 2012’, rapid growth in throughput has been pushing Chinese ports up the global ranking in terms of development potential.

The report also revealed that throughput in China’s ports was stable, with a growth rate of around 3% to 10%, affected by the worsening economic environment, growth in international shipping and a decrease in trade volume.

But, with global economic, trade and shipping centres moving eastward, some small and medium sized ports have recorded double digit growth (over 20% in some cases). As a result, Chinese ports, including Hong Kong, have taken up five positions among SISI’s Top 10 2012 World’s Most Potential Container Ports, nine positions among the Top 20 global container ports and 13 positions among the Top 20 global ports in terms of cargo throughput.

The report says that European ports are likely to see a return in stability, with a limited growth of less than 3%, while American and African ports may see some growth in throughput following the slow recovery of international trade volume and stronger cargo handling capacity.

sea_freight_trackingCargo traditionally sent by air is increasingly switching to sea as shippers capitalise on the mode’s lower transport costs – a trend expected to continue over the coming years.

Lloyds List reports that several leading freight forwarders reported in their full-year results that certain cargo types — particularly hi-tech and telecoms — switched from air freight to sea freight last year.

DHL Global Forwarding CEO Roger Crook said the switch was the result of a price difference of 10 times between the two modes of transport. He said: “Obviously many companies are under cost pressure and looking to reduce total supply chain costs. Therefore, they are buying and moving by ocean freight, and particularly it is happening in the technology sector.”

Panalpina chief operating officer Karl Weyeneth said he expected the trend to continue. “There is a maximum shift you can achieve, depending on what industry you are talking about,” he said.

“But I believe that now supply chains are used to working with more ocean freight, this impact will stay for at least a couple of years, until the economy has really recovered, then it will start to shift back again.”

“We really see this as an important factor in our market for the next two to three years.”

Kuehne+Nagel (KN) chief executive Reinhard Lange said the decision on whether cargo was suitable to be switched from air to sea partly came down to the weight of the shipment. He said that if two products had the same market value, but one weighed less than the other, the overall cost impact of flying was less for the lighter cargo because air cargo costs were based on weight. He said this explained why hi-tech products had transferred to ocean freight while lighter products, such as pharmaceuticals, had, in the main, continued to utilise air freight.

The forwarders said the impact of the switch from air to ocean freight was partly to blame for a decline in air freight volumes last year, while container volumes continued to grow. In its full-year results, Panalpina saw air freight volumes decline 6% last year while ocean freight volumes grew by the same amount. Meanwhile, DHL Global Forwarding’s air freight volumes slipped 5.3% in 2012 with ocean freight increasing 4.3%, while KN saw its air freight volumes grow by 2% while ocean freight increased 6% year on year. Source: LloydsList

WCO News - No.70 February 2013No introduction needed here. This Edition of WCO News focusses on innovation with a collection of articles from around the globe. In addition to the highlights listed above, check out what’s happening in the world of Non-Intrusive Inspection.

  • Serbian Customs showcases its new Command and Control centre and anti-smuggling capability demonstrating efficient distribution of information between its head quarters and border-crossings and use of mobile X-ray scanners.
  • Dutch Customs discusses its foray into the unique territory of rail scanning, having recently acquired the worlds fastest X-ray rail scanner.
  • The head of Rapiscan Systems presents the changing requirements of customs cargo screening, particularly the emergence of ‘fused technologies’ that maximise the capabilities of non-intrusive detection and material discrimination.

Singapore Customs leads the way in the exploration and promotion of ‘green’ technologies having facilitated two R&D projects on eco-friendly vehicles.

Certificates of origin also feature. As part of its commitment to further facilitate trade by strengthening origin compliance through innovative thinking, the International Chamber of Commerce World Chambers Federation (ICC WCF) recently created an international certificate of origin certification and accreditation chain which will, as a first step, concentrate on non-preferential certificates of origin (COs) – the most common certificates issued by Chambers, and the only ones Chambers are authorized to issue in most countries. Learn how they intend to implement the Certificate of Origin (CO)  certification and accreditation chain scheme and what the underlying benefits are.

Also, learn how the EU proposes to strengthen supply chain security. Click Here! to access the magazine.

Minister Pravin Gordhan and his 'budget team' on their way to parliment [Picture credit-SARS]

Minister Pravin Gordhan and his ‘budget team’ on their way to parliament [Picture credit – SARS]

After more than a decade of fruitless marketing and billions spent on capital investment, Budget 2013 brings some hope of a turn-around and better fortunes for economic development zones in South Africa.

Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan announced, what is an unprecedented move. to bolster support for government’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ)programme. Investors in such zones are expected to qualify for a 15% corporate tax rate, and in addition, a further tax deduction for companies employing workers earning less than R60,000 per year.

This is a significant development in that the previous dispensation under the Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) programme only afforded prospective investors a duty rebate and VAT exemption on imported goods for use in the Customs Controlled Area (CCA) of an IDZ. The reality is that these benefits were simply not enough to woo foreign company’s to set up shop in our back yard, let alone existing big business in South Africa to relocate to these zones. Mozambique, next door, has had much success as are other African countries through the offering of company tax holidays with the introduction of export-focussed special manufacturing facilities.

The SEZ (so it would seem) differs little from the IDZ approach save the fact that the former does not require the location of the economic zone at an international airport, seaport or border crossing. As such, an existing IDZ may ‘house’ a special economic zone, thus maximizing return on investment.

Recent developments in SA Customs realise a provision permitting foreign entities to register as importers or exporters under the ‘foreign principal’ clause in the Customs and Excise Act. Approval of such is dependant on the foreign principal establishing a business relationship with a South African ‘Agent’. This ‘agent’ is required to be registered with the SA Revenue Service as the party representing a ‘foreign principal’ in customs affairs. At this point, the provision is being applied to business entities in BLNS countries who import or move bonded goods into or from South Africa.

Future global application of this provision could boost the possibilities of a broader range of investor to favourably consider SEZ opportunities in South Africa. This option will, no doubt, not go unnoticed by the big audit firms seeking to broker ‘cross-border’ customs facilities for their multi-national clients. I perceive that more introspection is still required concerning ‘non-resident’ banking facilities and transfer pricing issues to enable the global application of the foreign principal concept. But after all this seems a good case for trade liberalisation. Add to this the forthcoming launch of Customs new integrated declaration processing system that will (in time) offer simplified electronic clearance and expedited release facilities for future SEZ clients.