An interesting take on SADC developments and the lack of progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to resolve regional transport problems?

The Freight-Intra Africa Trade Conference in Pretoria, this week, has featured several news articles in the local media, and no doubt some foreign tabloids as well. The Minister of Transport has cleared up the cause of the ills plaguing cross border and regional transport. At least we are now fully informed that [historical] design issues and operational inefficiencies at South Africa’s landborders, and Beit Bridge in particular, are the fundamental causes of under-performance in intra-Africa trade.

“In most cases, the delays at the borders are caused by operational inefficiencies, which result in the duplication of processes. This is a serious cost to the economies of the countries that conduct their trade through such border posts,” the Minister said.

One has to seriously question who advises the minister which leads to such statements, and whether or not these advisers have visited any land borders in recent months.

Now the remedy – Government has budgeted and approved R845-billion for infrastructure development over the medium-term, with a significant proportion, about R262-billion of this investment being earmarked for transport infrastructure and logistics projects. Can anyone question government’s commitment in this respect? Not really. However, the Minister was quick to point out government would resolve inefficiencies at the borders by establishing a mechanism that will bring all border entities under a single command and control structure to address the fragmentation in border operations. “The ultimate vision is to create one-stop border operations to facilitate legitimate trade and travel across the borders”.

The proliferation of border management agencies (integration of enforcement and regulatory authorities under one umbrella) – which has seen the demise of many customs administrations over the last decade – has not proven an effective vehicle to manage cross border travel and trade. It is difficult to see how facilitation procedures can co-exist under a command and control environment. What the situation does create is the opportunity to consolidate a budget for security expenditure. Various Sources: Engineering News, Business Live, Fin24.com and personal opinion.