Archives For Namibia

Namibia flagOver 1 380 finance ministry officials will be required to reapply for their jobs when the proposed state-owned Namibia Revenue Agency is formed.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein tabled the Namibia Revenue Agency Bill 2017 to pave the way for the creation of the independent agency which will assess and collect taxes.

The agency will not only extract the largest part of the finance ministry’s workforce, but a proposed law tabled last week suggests that the new parastatal should be allowed to attract experts by paying more than what other civil servants currently earn.

When he tabled the proposed bill in the National Assembly last week, Schlettwein said 730 officials from the Inland Revenue department and 650 from the directorate of customs will have to reapply for their jobs when the new agency opens next year.

According to Schlettwein, the two departments make up 79% of the total staff at the finance ministry.

Schlettwein told The Namibian yesterday that the finance ministry has a total workforce of 1 740, but the two departments have up to 1 380 workers.

“To further avoid compromising on the skills needed for the agency, there will be no automatic transfer of existing staff of the departments of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise to the new institution,” the minister stated.

However, finance officials will be offered the first opportunity to apply and compete for jobs offered at the new agency before the platform is opened up to the public, he said.

“As such, arrangements will be made to ensure that the selection process is transparent and adheres to best practices,” Schlettwein added.

According to the minister, officials at the finance ministry who fail to get jobs at the new tax agency will be offered positions elsewhere in government, as stipulated in the Public Service Act.

He said some officials at the agency will also be highly paid in order to attract the best talent.

“The agency will be exempted from the public service rules and public enterprises remuneration guidelines,” he noted.

The 2017/18 budget documents indicate that the finance ministry will spend N$28 million on salaries and other benefits. Schlettwein said the new parastatal will start working next year at a date yet to be announced, adding that there is a need to manage the transition process well to avoid making costly mistakes.

He said for now, a finance ministry and revenue agency task team will finalise the transitional aspects for the establishment of the agency.

“This entails further consultations on the operational modalities, the determination of the recruitment process, and proposals for the draft internal policies of the new institution in preparation for the recruitment of the board and senior management of the agency,” Schlettwein stated.

The minister said one of the functions of setting up a highly-paying tax body is to catch companies and individuals who are taking advantage of loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

“We are a resource-based economy, which comes with the potential for illicit financial flows, transfer pricing, profit shifting and other base-eroding tax planning activities,” he said.

Illicit financial flows involve money illegally earned, transferred or used which crosses national borders. Culprits are usually multinational companies and criminals.

The minister said tackling illicit financial flows will require specialised skills, which could not be optimised in the public service due to a lack of skills.

Tackling illicit financial flows will give President Hage Geingob’s administration plaudits for tackling corporate and financial cheating.

The real impact of illicit financial flows on Namibia is currently not known, as the government continues to rely on international statistics when commenting on the subject.

For instance, the United States-based think tank, Global Financial Integrity, said in its 2012 report that Namibia lost around N$5,6 billion per year to illegal activities between 2001 to 2010.

The Namibia Revenue Agency will be run by a seven-member board on a three-year term. The board members will be appointed by the minister from experts selected from state entities, such as the permanent secretary from the finance ministry, the commissioner, and five members who will be appointed based on areas of expertise such as taxation, law, auditing and human resources.

A commissioner will be appointed as the chief executive for five years. The chief executive can only serve for a maximum two terms (10 years), but his/her second-term appointment should be based on “excellence” in performance, and at the discretion of the finance minister. Source: The Namibia, 2017-06-27. Author: Shinovene Immanuel

Namport-rail-upgradeThe Namibian Ports Authority has completed the upgrade of all railway infrastructure at the Port of Walvis Bay at a cost of N$20M (US$1.3M)

The work was included in Namports maintenance programme in 2010, but is now part of wider plans to upgrade facilities at Walvis Bay in preparation for the completion of the new container terminal.

A total of 4.5kms of track inside the port and the section of railway running from the city into the port have been replaced using material that can cope with heavier loads.

A spokesperson for Namport said: “Although the project was of relatively low value, its execution was complex as we had to ensure minimum operational interruption to the track, which is in daily use.”

The new container terminal is being constructed on 40-ha of reclaimed land and will add 700,000 TEU of annual handling capacity to the existing 350,000 TEU. Walvis Bay is already attracting bigger ships and recently handled its biggest ever container vessel the CMA CGM DANUBE, a 112,580 dwt vessel with a nominal intake of 9200 TEU.

A statement from Namports read: “The visit of CMA CGM DANUBE complements our port expansion project, which accommodates greater carrying capacity. Following the completion of the port expansion project vessels such as this will be accommodated at the new container terminal.”

The Walvis Bay Corridor Group, which was set up to promote the use of the port among neighbouring states, is keen to improve ancillary infrastructure at Walvis Bay to make the most of the new terminal.

Namport manager for corporate communication Taná Pesat said: “The benefits are our safe and secure corridors to and from landlocked SADC markets. The frequency of direct ship calls and flexibility of doing business with ease.”

However, the plot of land at the port given to Zimbabwe in 2009 for the construction of a dedicated dry port has still not been developed. Source: World Cargo News

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…

SACU IT Connectivity ConferenceRepresentatives from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa recently to refine requirements towards the development IT connectivity and electronic data exchange to facilitate cross-border customs clearance in the region. The workshop was convened by the SACU Secretariat under the sponsorship of the Swedish government and technical support from the World Customs Organisation.

Work already commenced way back in 2012 on this initiative. Progress in the main has been hampered by the legal agreement which to date not all members of the Customs Union have ratified. One of the features of this initiative, however, has been the continuity of support rendered by the WCO.

This event was indeed fortunate to secure – once again – the services of S.P. Sahu, former head of Information Technology at the WCO. After his secondment to the WCO he is now back in his home country where he is the Commissioner for Single Window based in Delhi, India.

S.P’s years of experience in both the technical and operational spheres of customs and the international supply chain enable him to articulate concepts and solutions in a manner which are practical and simple to understand. The workshop recognised the need to accelerate border processes and to this end the border process should be limited to physical examination, inspection, release; declaration processes should be done away from borders.

While simple enough in theory, the notion of clearance away from borders could pose challenges. Many of Africa’s borders – including those of a ‘One Stop’ kind – have not fully embraced the need to integrate processing and synchronize Customs activities. The challenge posed by ‘regional integration’ is one of surrendering national imperatives for a common regional good. It imposes a co-ordination of and development towards ‘regional objectives’ with the same level of purpose as national states do for their domestic agenda’s. In the case of SACU, it challenges member state’s stance on what real benefits the customs union should aspire to, beyond the mere sharing of the common revenue pool.

The outcome of the workshop resulted in a more refined, do-able scope and objective. With Mr. Sahu’s experience and guidance, the revised Utility Block (UB) speaks to all facets (legal, operational and technical) of the ‘regional agreement’ to the extent it specifies in the required detail the programme of action required on the part of the member stats as well as the SACU Secretariat. Refinement of the UB includes the removal from scope of the Release Message, Manifest Information and bond/guarantee message for the purpose of simplification of customs processes.

What remains are –

  • An Export & Transit Message – which includes the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) validated and approved by the Export/Exit country.
  • An Arrival Confirmation/Notification Message – where the arrival date time would be when the import country recognises goods as received and places the goods under its customs procedure.
  • A Control Results Message – which includes the results of data matching, inspection and risk assessment based on agreed business rules.

In support of the above, SACU recently agreed on a framework of a UCR which must be further discussed and agreed upon by the respective member states. The UCR is a structured reference number which will be used by customs administrations of the respective member states to ‘link up’ import declaration data with the corresponding ‘export declaration’ data electronically exchanged by the export country.

Regional traders who have electronic clearance and forwarding capability will also play a role in the exchange of data through the exchange of the UCR on export and transit information with their counterparts or clients in the destination country. Once the exchange of data is operational between member states, it will be imperative for the importer to receive/obtain the UCR from the exporting country and apply it to his/her import declaration when making clearance with Customs.

The SACU Utility block will be tabled at a future Permanent Technical Committee meeting of the WCO for consideration and approval. A Utility Block is a concept structure which is proposed under the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) initiative which seeks to aid and assist its members in the operationalisation of Mutual Administrative Assistance agreements.

Namibian Trade PortalThe Namibia’s Ministry of Finance and Namibia’s Customs & Excise, in partnership with the U.S. government has recently launched a powerful new tool to increase and facilitate cross-border trade. The “Namibia Trade Information Portal” is a web-based platform that provides an authoritative “one-stop shop” of readily accessible trade, customs and compliance information. It is designed to significantly reduce the time and effort required for local and international traders to access current information and documentation required for doing business. The portal is the culmination of many years of collaboration between government of Namibia agencies and ministries and the U.S. government, working through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Trade Hub Project.

In his keynote address, Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein said that the Trade Portal reflects the commitment of the Namibian government to build a “robust, knowledge-based society” through various modernization projects. However, he cautioned that the portal must be kept up-to-date if it is to be sustainable and relevant.

“For this reason, I strongly appeal to my fellow and counterpart ministers to designate focal points in their ministries who shall administer and avail timely updates, preferably online transmission of such information to our designated team in the Ministry of Finance who will, in turn, keep the portal updated,” Schlettwein said.

According to Namibia Trade Information Portal’s project manager, Melannie Tjijenda, the portal will save people time when they enquire about trade-related matters, so they will no longer be sent ‘from office to office.’

“International traders will now know how they can invest in Namibia,” she said, adding that this will save money on expenses like phone calls.

Tjijenda said the fact that most government websites are not regularly updated will not be the case with this portal. “When something changes, we will update it” she said, further pointing out that they have a team of content managers who will be checking and updating the content on regular basis. Source: The Namibian/USAID

namport-expansionConstruction of the N$3 billion container terminal at Walvis Bay is taking shape with over 1.5 million cubic metres of land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which is constructing the terminal, says the work is on schedule for completion in 2017.

“We understand the importance of the project not only for Namibia but for Africa as a continent and therefore we are fully committed to deliver a state-of-the-art project at the end,” said CHEC’s acting project manager, Feng Yuan Fei.

The expansion includes the construction of a modern container terminal, adding 600m of quay length to the existing 1500m and 650 000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) per annum capacity to the existing 350 000 TEU. The Namibia Port Authority (Namport) port engineer, Elzevir Gelderbloem, said Namport is happy with the progress made so far.

“It took us nine years to get to the construction phase of the project. Such projects take time to implement and we hope our next projects will be much quicker. However, we have no dry land to expand as the harbour is completely boxed in by the town, but with the current project we are creating more land in water. This type of expansion is unique and feasible for a container terminal.

“It’s the kind of construction that has never been used in the country but will improve our port services at least until 2020 when we will have to undergo the same process again,” he said.

Reclamation of the land is scheduled for completion in February next year, after which the next phase is to complete the quay walls by April and then the construction of revetment by August in the same year. Erection of revetment involves the layering of different rock such as armour core rock, mixed filter layer, geotextile, and crushed stone layers to create a wall around the reclaimed land. More than 400 000 cubic metres of rock will be needed for revetment.

Feng said he was confident they would comfortably meet the deadline to complete the revetment in August next year. “We also created a sandbag cofferdam, which prevents the dredged material and muddy water from overflowing during the process of reclamation,” he said. Source: New Era newspaper

Namibian police inspect over 1,000 boxes of impounded cigarettes at a roadblock in Rundu [Coastweek]

Namibian police inspect over 1,000 boxes of impounded cigarettes at a roadblock in Rundu [Coastweek]

Two suspects have appeared in a Namibian regional court Monday in connection with more than 1,000 cartons of cigarettes confiscated by the police Thursday last week.The two, both said to be Zimbabweans, appeared before a Rundu Magistrate in the northern Kavango region after their arrest over the 11.3 million Namibian dollars (940,000 U.S. dollars) cigarette contraband destined for South Africa.

The two were each charged with two counts of contravening the Custom and Excise Act 20 of 1998 and non-declaration of goods upon entering Namibia as well as the Prevention of Organized Crime Act 29 of 2004 of money laundering.

The accused persons were not asked to plead and their case was then postponed to July 8 for further police investigation. Acting on a tip-off, customs officials and the police raided two trucks en-route to South Africa and discovered 1,130 boxes that were hidden in fuel tankers. Source: http://www.spyghana.com/

SACU logoPeter Fabricus, Foreign Editor, Independent Newspapers through the Institute of Security Studies writes an insightful and balanced article on the history and current state of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

The formula that determines how the customs and excise revenues gathered in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) are distributed among its members looks, to a layperson, dauntingly complex. But this formula has had an enormous impact on the economic and even political development of the five SACU member states; South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

The impact has arguably been greatest on South Africa’s neighbours, the four smaller member states that are often referred to simply as the BLNS. But it has also had an impact on South Africa.

SACU was founded in 1910, the year the Union of South Africa came into existence, and is the oldest surviving customs union in the world. Originally it distributed customs revenue from the common external trade tariffs in proportion to each country’s trade..

So, South Africa received nearly 99%. Surprisingly, South Africa’s apartheid government radically revised the revenue-sharing formula (RSF) in 1969 after Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland had become independent. This gave each of the BLS members first 142% and later 177% of their revenue dues, calculated on both external and intra-SACU imports, with South Africa receiving only what was left. But this apparent economic generosity from Pretoria almost certainly masked a political intention to keep its neighbours dependent and in its fold, as the rest of the world was increasingly turning against it.

However, as Roman Grynberg and Masedi Motswapong of the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis pointed out in their paper, SACU Revenue Sharing Formula: The History of An Equation, the 1969 formula became increasingly unviable for South Africa as it had been de-linked from the common revenue pool. This threatened to burden Pretoria with a commitment to pay out to the BLS states more than the total amount in the pool.

The African National Congress government saw the dangers when it took office in 1994 and soon began negotiations with the BLNS states for a new formula. That was agreed in 2002 and implemented in 2004. But although the 2002 RSF eliminated the risk that the payouts to the BLNS might exceed the whole revenue pool, it actually increased the share of the pool accruing to the BLNS at the expense of South Africa – as Grynberg and Motswapong also observe.

The new RSF was based on three separate components. The first divided the customs revenue pool proportional to each member state’s share of intra-SACU imports. Because of the growing imports of the BLNS states from the ever-mightier South Africa, this meant most of the common customs pool went to the BLNS. This proportion is increasing – but never to more than the entire pool.

The second component of the RSF divided 85% of the pool of excise duties (the taxes on domestic production) in direct proportion to the share of the gross domestic product (GDP) of each of the SACU members. The remaining 15% of the excise duties became a development component, distributed in inverse proportion to the GDP per capita of each member. So the poorest members of SACU would receive a disproportionate share of this element of the excise.

Over the years the BLNS countries have grown increasingly dependent on the SACU revenue. It now funds 50% of Swaziland’s entire government revenue, 44% of Lesotho’s, 35% of Namibia’s and 30% of Botswana’s. Because of its own growing fiscal constraints, Pretoria launched a review of the formula in 2010. But this review got bogged down over major disagreements and seems to have gone nowhere.

In his budget speech this month, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene raised the issue again, calling for a ‘revised and improved revenue-sharing arrangement,’ and Parliament’s two finance committees examined it. National Treasury spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakhane told ISS Today that while efforts to reform the SACU formula are ongoing, ‘progress has unfortunately been arduously slow.’

Budget documents show that in 2014-15, South Africa paid out some R51.7 billion to the BNLS countries out of a total estimated revenue pool of R80 billion, and was projected to pay out R51 billion again in 2015-16. Kyle Mandy, a PricewaterhouseCoopers technical tax expert, told Parliament’s two finance committees last week that South Africa was paying about R30 billion a year more than it would otherwise under the SACU RSF. He said South Africa contributed about 97% of the customs revenue pool and received only about 17% of it.

The R51.7 billion payout to the BLNS this year represents about 5% of South Africa’s total of R979 billion in tax revenue, a substantial ‘subsidisation’ that was no longer affordable at a time of growing fiscal constraint, which had forced Nene to increase taxes, Mandy said.

He noted that the SACU revenue had allowed all but Namibia of the BLNS countries to set their taxes below South Africa’s. ‘This means South Africa is subsidising the BLS countries to compete with South Africa for investment with their more attractive taxes,’ he said in an interview.

‘This is not sustainable for anyone. It locks the BLNS countries into dependency on South Africa. They have neglected their own fiscal systems. But the moment that the revenue fluctuates, [as Nene’s budget predicted it would in 2016-17, dropping to R36.5 million], it puts them in a difficult position. When South Africa sneezes, they catch flu.’

But what to do about this? Some, like political analyst Mzukisi Qobo, have called for a total overhaul of the SACU agreement, which would make explicit that SACU is a disguised South African development project. The development aid would become transparent and could be tied to conditions such as democratic government.

That is on the face of it an attractive solution, offering the opportunity of leveraging democracy in Swaziland, in particular, by placing a conditional foot on its lifeline of SACU revenues. But Grynberg warns that a sudden withdrawal of the vital direct budgetary support which SACU customs and excise revenues provides, could implode both Swaziland and Lesotho and provoke economic crises in Namibia and even Botswana.

He also points out that the RSF is not plain charity by South Africa to its smaller neighbours. The formula has essentially just compensated them for the cost-raising and polarising effects of SACU – that the BLNS countries have generally had to pay more for imported goods over the years than they would have otherwise done because of import tariffs designed to protect South African industries; and because the duty-free trade within SACU has tended to attract investment to larger South Africa.

Meanwhile, South Africa has benefitted from a ready market for its much larger manufacturing machine. Grynberg wrote in a more recent article for the Botswana journal, Mmegi, that the South African government was thinking of pulling out of SACU because it couldn’t get its way in the negotiations to revise the RSF; and because the 2005 Southern African Development Community Free Trade Agreement now gave it duty-free access to the BLNS countries without the need to pay the re-distributive SACU customs revenues.

It was only President Jacob Zuma who was preventing this, because he didn’t want to go down in history ‘as the man who crippled the Namibian and Botswana economies and created two more “Zimbabwes” – i.e. Swaziland and Lesotho – right on the country’s border.’ Pretoria’s decision had turned SACU into a ‘dead man walking, just waiting for someone to pull the switch and end its life.’

Grynberg strongly advised the BLNS to prevent this by accepting that the political reality that underpinned the RSF of SACU no longer existed. He says that it should be transformed into a purely development community without the formula, but with mutually agreed spending on development – mainly in the BLNS. He suggested, though, that this radical change would take at least 10 to 15 years to phase in.

All very well. But isn’t that what SADC is supposed to be already? Which suggests that it might be time to take the 105-year-old dead man off life support.

Source: Institute of Secutity Studies (ISS)

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Workers putting the final touches to the entrance to the Botswana dry port. [Photo - Floris Stenkamp]

Workers putting the final touches to the entrance to the Botswana dry port. [Photo – Floris Stenkamp]

The Botswana dry port in Walvis Bay is expected to be operational this week, Botswana Railways’ Commercial Manager Mthulusi Lotshe said last week. The dry port will cost N$60 million.

The Botswana dry port is constructed on land owned by NamPort. The facility would be used exclusively by Botswana Railways for handling both containerised and non-containerised cargoes for import and export to, or originating from this eastern neighbouring country.

Lotshe made the announcement during the Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) information session hosted by the Trans-Kalahari Corridor secretariat in Windhoek.

He said the objective of the dry port is to consolidate maritime goods into inter modal and long distance transport flows.

“The other objectives of the dry port include improving cargo processing through coordinated operations; facilitating collection and distribution of local, regional and international transport; and integrating Botswana and the Southern African Development Community region with the Walvis Bay port,” Lotshe said.

He said the port aims to strengthen multi-modal solutions and create opportunities for new services, as well as reduce total transport and logistics costs and journey time. Source: The Namibian

banner4Transport Forex, created by Inter Africa Bureau de Change, a registered bureau de change with the South African Reserve Bank has created an unique online banking system for the transport industry.

With branches at all of South African border posts, the company has expanded operations into Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, the DRC and Tanzania with offices on all the major border posts between these countries.

Transport Forex is an online ordering system where the transport manager can deposit money in South Africa into the relevant account therefore ensuring when drivers arrive at the relevant border posts there is enough money for them to pay the relevant duties. At the same time, this ensures enough cash is in the account for drivers to purchase fuel at key petrol stations or even pay for a service on-route in one of the partner countries.

Once the monies have been deposited into the account, an order number is sent via SMS to the driver who then presents it at the relevant Transport Forex office to draw the necessary funds required.

In the same way you can book and pay for diesel for your truck on any of the major transport routes in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, the DRC and Tanzania. Transport Forex has negotiated with partner fuel suppliers for better prices and passes this discount directly to the transport company.

A new Payment Service was introduced in 2013 for clients. Should additional unforeseen funds be required for an emergency while the driver is on the road then monies can be made available for drivers almost immediately. This prevents valuable time from being lost.

Transport Forex is also in negotiations with several government institutions so relevant duties and taxes for operators’trucks can also be paid through the system in advance.

To join Transport Forex simply log onto www.transportforex.co.za, and click on “Create Account”. Registration is free, and there are no monthly charges.

Southern_Africa_Panorama_MapSouth Africa is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu), which consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS), the oldest customs union in Africa but apart from this prestige, is Sacu worth the time?

In an article by Professor Roman Grynberg, he asked whether Sacu is a “dead man walking?” and I wish to follow-up on this. A recent article appearing on the World Bank’s website states that even if poor countries are neighbours, it is often more difficult for them to trade with each other than it is for them to trade with distant countries that are wealthy.

The Sacu agreement is principally about the issue of distributing customs revenue earned by the five members on their international trade with other countries. The distribution of this revenue is based on each country’s share of intra-Sacu imports and so favours the smaller members.

South Africa, for example, imports very little from within the region and so ends up paying the BLNS about R15bn to R18bn per year more than it would if Sacu did not exist.

If we are paying R15bn to R18bn per annum to be in a union with questionable benefits, why do we not exit the agreement?

For one, the SADC free trade agreement which was implemented in 2008, gives South Africa a “get out of jail free card” through providing South African exports similar but not identical market access to that available under Sacu.

We could thus “walk away from Sacu at any moment, save R15bn to R18bn and South African exports would still continue to flow across the Limpopo basin in more or less the same uninterrupted way.” (Grynberg, 2014).

Another reason, according to Grynberg, is that an “economic catastrophe” may result if South Africa exits. Swaziland and Lesotho are between 60% to 70% dependent on the Sacu for revenues, Botswana and Namibia are somewhat less dependent at 30% to 40%.

I feel though that this may be the very same reason that there will not be a major reform of the revenue-sharing formula. Would you want to cede even a third of your income?

So what should South Africa do? I think it is firstly important to note that of our SADC neighbours, South Africa earns the most from its exports to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique – none of which is in the Sacu.

This is perhaps not surprising when considering the findings of the World Bank and realising that nearly all of South Africa’s top trading partners are in the northern hemisphere.

The BLNS countries, interestingly enough, fall in the bottom 5 of our SADC trade partners and so should we worry so much about an “economic catastrophe” in the BLNS when they don’t buy our goods in any case?

What it comes down to, I feel, is that South Africa needs to play hard ball. By this I mean South Africa needs to be committed to actually exiting the Sacu agreement because it is only when the BLNS realise that we are serious and that there is the real threat of them losing 30% to 70% of their revenue that they will agree to a new revenue-sharing formula. After all, something is better than nothing. Source: Fin24

Related ‘must read’ articles

Namibia-coat-of-armsA financial analyst has expressed concern about Namibia’s reliance on revenue from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), saying the government needs to diversify its source of revenue.

James Cumming, Head of Research at Simonis Storm Securities told a Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry post budget meeting that he is concerned about over reliance of budget revenue from the SACU pool, saying 35% to 40% of tax revenue is from the SACU.

He explained that government needs to diversify its revenue sources as future adjustments to the SACU revenue formula could lead to lower revenue from this agreement.

The Minister of Finance, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, told the meeting that sources of revenue have been increasing and are expected to grow over the next three years. She said new sources of revenue have been identified with preliminary studies already underway in order to secure a consistent revenue stream in the future.

Leonard Kamwi, head of advocacy and research at the Chamber, said he was disappointed that previous budgets had failed to reconcile expenditure on education with the resulting output, which has been below par. He said it is not enough for the government to target sectors in their wholesome but rather target the prospective beneficiaries. “The budget should target specific necessary skill sets as opposed to the whole sector,” said Kamwi.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila defended the proposed export tax on natural resources, indicating it was meant to minimise the disparities that arise from the exploitation of Namibia’s naturally endowed resources. Source: The Namibian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

South Africa has been courting major player Botswana’s support for changes to SACU.

South Africa has been courting major player Botswana’s support for changes to SACU. (Mail & Guardian)

The Mail & Guardian reveals that South Africa has requested an urgent meeting with members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) for as early as ­February next year in what could be a make-or-break conference for the struggling union.

In July this year, a clearly frustrated Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told Parliament that there had been little progress on a 2011 agreement intended to advance the region’s development integration, and it was stifling its real ­economic development.

South Africa’s payments to SACU currently amount to R48.3-billion annually – a substantial amount, considering the budget deficit is presently R146.9-billion, an estimated 4.5% of gross domestic product.

In the past, South Africa has had some room to reposition itself, but as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has pointed out, the South African fiscus has come under a lot of pressure as a result of factors such as the global slowdown, reduction in demand from countries such as China for commodities, and reduced demand from trade partners such as the European Union.

South Africa, which according to research data, last year contributed 1.26% of its GDP, or about 98% of the pool of customs and excise duties that are shared between union countries including Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia, wants a percentage of this money to be set aside for regional and industrial development.

The four countries receive 55% of the proceeds, and are greatly dependent on this money, which makes up between 25% and 60% of their budget revenue. South Africa has very little direct benefit, except when it comes to exporting to these countries. It receives few imports.

Changing the revenue-sharing arrangement

Efforts to change the revenue-sharing arrangement so that money can be set aside for regional development would result in less money going into the coffers of these countries.

It would also mean that a portion of the revenue that South Africa’s SACU partners now receive with no strings attached would in future include restrictions on how it is spent.

A source close to the department said adjustments to the revenue-sharing arrangement and the promotion of regional and industrial development were issues on which the South African government was not willing to budge.

So seriously is South Africa viewing the lack of progress on the 2011 agreement, a document prepared for Cabinet discussion includes pulling out of SACU as one of its options, a source told the Mail & Guardian.

This could not be confirmed by the government, but two senior sources said South Africa was very aware of the dependence of its neighbours on income from the customs union, in particular Swaziland and Lesotho, and the impact its collapse could have on these economies.

Professor Jannie Rossouw of the University of South Africa’s department of economics believes a new revenue-sharing arrangement is essential for the long-term sustainability of SACU countries.

South Africa’s contribution

He also said that South Africa’s contribution as it presently stands should be recognised as development aid and treated as such by the international community.

Between 2002 and 2013, total transfers amounted to 0.92% of South Africa’s GDP, which exceeds the international benchmark of 0.7% set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, he said in his research.

“It is noteworthy that South Africa transfers nearly all customs collections to SACU countries. Total collection since 2002 amounted to about R249-billion, while transfers to SACU were about R242-billion,” Rossouw said. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) recognises that inclusion of trade with Sacu would have a substantial impact on South Africa’s ­official trade balance.

South Africa’s total trade deficit for 2012 was R116.9-billion and, according to SARS, had trade with the union been included, it would have been much reduced to R34.6-billion.

South Africa has budgeted to increase its allocation to SACU from R42.3-billion in the 2012-2013 financial year to R43.3-billion this financial year and in the 2014/2015 financial year.

In 2002, the SACU agreement was modified to include higher allocations for the most vulnerable countries, Swaziland and Lesotho, and it established a council of ministers, which introduced a requirement for key issues to be decided jointly. In 2011, a summit was convened by President Jacob Zuma in which a five-point plan was established to advance regional integration.

Review of the revenue-sharing arrangement

This involved a review of the revenue-sharing arrangement; prioritising regional cross-border industrial development; making cross-border trade easier; developing SACU ­institutions such as the National Bodies (entrusted with receiving requests for tariff changes) and a SACU tariff board that would eventually take over the functions of South Africa’s International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC); and the development of a unified approach to trade negotiations with third parties.

Davies told Parliament that there had been little progress in the past three years on these five issues.

Xavier Carim, the director general of the international trade division of the department of trade and industry, said there had been positive developments regarding agreements on trade negotiations, such as those with the European Union and India on trade, and progress had been made on the development of SACU institutions, but progress was slow on the other issues.

Davies told Parliament it was difficult to develop common policy among countries that varied dramatically in economic size, ­population and levels of economic, legislative and institutional development.

He cited differences over approaches to tariff settings as an example.

“South Africa views tariffs as tools of industrial policy, while for other countries tariffs are viewed as a source of revenue,” Davies said.

A proposal that cause all the problem

“A key problem that led to differences was the proposal by one member for lower tariffs to import goods from global sources that were cheapest, which ultimately undermined the industry of another member. This was primarily an issue of countries who viewed themselves as consumers rather than producers.”

The South African government is trying diplomacy as its first option. A senior government source said issues around SACU made up a large part of talks last week between Botswana and South Africa on the establishment of co-operative agreements on trade, transport and border co-operation.

Catherine Grant of the South African Institute of International Affairs said Botswana had long been considered the leader of the four countries. It would make sense for South Africa to bring Botswana on board before the meeting.

Grant said the SACU agreement needed to be re-examined and modernised.

“There needs to be a review of the revenue-sharing formula that is less opaque and is easier to understand. The present system is complicated, making it hard to work out exactly how much countries are getting. It’s clear that Rob Davies feels hamstrung by SACU and has done for some time, because decisions cannot be made without the agreement of all five members, who have different needs and requirements.”

The trade balance is one of the elements that resulted in South Africa’s current account, which has recorded significant deficits in recent months, coming in as high as 6.5% of GDP in the second quarter of 2013.

Trade between South Africa and SACU has always been recorded, but for historical reasons it has been kept separate from official international trade statistics. Source: Mail & Guradian