What Shoprite and Woolworths can tell us about Non-tariff Barriers

SAIIA PaperGauging from the title of this SAIIA report, it is the first time I ever saw the use of private sector entities as the vehicle for delivery. A nice and welcomed approach. While the report tends towards technical analysis, it does provide some sound thoughts on the extent of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) outside of the traditional barriers such as antidumping duties, quantitative restrictions, import levies. In fact the report focusses on licensing rules, import permits, standards as well  and customs procedures.These NTBs are likely to be less transparent but more prevalent and representative of the constraints Southern African traders face in selling merchandise across borders on a day-to-day basis.

It is interesting to see that corruption features in at least 3 out of the 4 NTBs by category identified by the private sector. While the quest for more automation at borders is definitely feasible, the question of limitation of human intervention at the border will undoubtedly be a stumbling block in many countries. It requires some political will to actually do something about the “rot” at borders. To access the report please visit the SAIIA website

The paper provides an overview of the incidence and impact of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The analysis draws on the growing body of literature on NTBs pertaining to regional trade in Southern and Eastern Africa, but importantly it supplements this with the experience of the private sector in the region. It reviews the current processes and achievements in addressing NTBs within Southern Africa. Practical measures are proposed to facilitate the removal of NTBs within Southern Africa, informed by the lessons from other regions. Source: South African Institute of International Affairs.

Comesa adopts IT system to boost trade in the region

Workers offload imported sugar at the port of Mombasa. Comesa has already gazetted transit goods routes, which have been geo-fenced and trucks following these routes will be monitored. Photo/File  Nation Media Group

Workers offload imported sugar at the port of Mombasa. Comesa has already gazetted transit goods routes, which have been geo-fenced and trucks following these routes will be monitored. Photo/File Nation Media Group

A new online system being implemented by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) trading bloc is expected to cut down non-tariff barriers, reduce the cost of doing business and improve intra-regional trade.

The $1 million (Sh84 million) system – which is being developed by Comesa and funded by the European Union – could for instance cut transport costs by up to 40 per cent, Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya said.

With three main modules – Transit Bonds, Risk Management and Cargo Tracking — the Comesa Virtual Trade Facilitation System (CVTFS) aims at integrating systems used by regional revenue authorities, transporters, shippers, clearing agents, ports and customs to provide real-time information and facilitate uninterrupted movement of goods across borders.

Besides tracking cargo from origin to destination, the system will facilitate management of transit bonds and capture electronic data contained in the customs seal and assign this information to customs offices at various transit points.

Comesa has already gazetted transit goods routes which have been geo-fenced and trucks following these routes will be monitored. In case seals are tampered with, owners will automatically be notified via Short Message Services (SMSs) or email. Owners who register their trucks with the system will display a ‘Comesa Transit’ plate on their vehicles.

Delays along the major transport corridors arising from lengthy procedures at weight control points and police road blocks within the region have been identified as major non-tariff barriers hindering trade.

Mr Charles Muita, a member of the team that worked on the system and who made the presentation, said they expected most of the countries where industry players do not have their own systems to quickly adopt CVTFS. “The system does not intend to replace the ones used by member countries but would integrate them to achieve a seamless flow of information and documentation,” Mr Ngwenya said during the sensitisation at the Mombasa Beach Hotel.

Truckers buy the fleet management system at Sh24,000 and pay an average of Sh2,000 management fee per month.“We are not interested in making money with the system and the initial cost of the gadget will be less than Sh12,000 and a monthly management fee of about $3 (Sh255),” explained Mr Ngwenya.

The sensitisation in Comesa member states aims at getting volunteers for a free pilot project that will run for three months starting next month. Source: Business Daily Africa.com

Thick Borders – Thin Trade

It’s quite amazing the number of reports featured in various african media across the continent pushing the ‘free trade’ agenda. The incumbent governments on the other hand are naturally concerned with dwindling tax collections, while at the same time increasing incidents of graft, collusion, and corruption run rampant at the border. While the following article states the obvious, unfortunately, nowhere will you find or read a practical approach which deals with increased ‘automation’ at borders and the consequential re-distribution of ‘bodies’ to other forms of gainful employment. Its jobs that will be on the line. Few governments wish to taunt their electorates – non-essential jobs are a fact of life and are destined to stay if that is what will earn votes and a further term in power. Moreover, there is no question of removing internal borders with the emphasis on costly ‘One-Stop Border’ facilities. To some extent the international donor community won’t mind this as there’s at least some profit and influence in it for them.

Poverty in Sub- Saharan Africa is a man-made phenomenon driven by internal warped policies and international trade systems. The continent cannot purport to seek to grow while it blocks the movement of goods and services through tariff regimes at the same time Tariff and non-tariff barriers contribute to inefficient delivery systems, epileptic cross-border trading and thriving of illicit/contraband goods.

This ultimately harms the local and regional economy. Delays at ports of delivery, different working hours and systems of control across the continent, unnecessary police roadblocks and poor infrastructure condemn countries to prisons of inter-regional and intra-regional trade poverty.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, removal of internal trade barriers would lead to US$25 billion per year of intra-regional exports in Africa, an increase by 15,4 percent by 2022. Making African border points crossings more trade efficient would increase intra-regional trade by 22 percent come 2020. Trade barriers in East Africa Community alone increase the cost of doing business by 20 percent to 40 percent.

Such barriers include the number of roadblocks within each country, cross- border charges for trucks and weighing of transit vehicles on several points on highways. Kenya is grappling to reduce the number of its roadblocks from 36 to five and Tanzania from 30 to 15. Sub-Saharan Africa records an average port delay of 12 days compared to seven days in Latin America and less than four days in Europe. Africa is lagging behind!

In West Africa, Ghanaian exports to Nigeria are faced with informal payments and delays as the goods transit across the country borders whether there is proper documentation. In the Great Lakes Region, an exporter is faced with 17 agencies at the border between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo each with a separate monetary charge sheet.

A South African retail chain Shoprite reportedly pays up to US$20 000 a week on permits to sell products in Zambia. Each Shoprite truck is accompanied with 1 600 documents in order to get its export loads across a Southern African Development Community border. Tariff and non-tariff barriers simply thicken the wall that traps Africans in economic poverty.

The new African Union chair should push for urgent steps to lower barriers to trade within Africa. Border control agencies need retraining and border country governments need to integrate their processes; long truck queues waiting to cross border points should not be used as an indicator of efficiency.

If it takes a loaded truck one hour to cover 100 kilometres; a four-hour wait at the border increases the distance to destination to another 400 kilometres. Increased distance impacts on the prices of goods at the retail end hence limiting access to products to majority of Africans. Limited access translates to less freedom of choice — similar to a locked up criminal prisoner.

With modern technology, goods should be declared at point of origin and point of receipt. Border points should simply have scanners to verify the content of containers. Protectionism, tariffs and non-tariff barriers within the continent sustains African market orientation towards former colonisers.

African entrepreneurs are subjected to longer travel schedules due to constant police checks and slow border processes. To fight poverty on the continent, African people would benefit from an African Union Summit that resolves to facilitate efficiency in movement of goods and services. Efficient delivery systems on the continent will tackle challenges of food insecurity, poor health care, conflicts and further promote diversified economies arising from competitive healthy trading amongst and between African nations.

Elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade will provide an opportunity for African entrepreneurs to adequately take their rightful places as relevant players in the global trade system. It is imperative that African countries re-orient their strategies to promote productivity by reviewing tariffs that hold back entrepreneurs from accessing the continent’s market. This calls for both a competitive spirit and a sense of integrated tariff and process compromise if the continent is to haul its population from poverty. Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Tanzania slams US/ EU non-tariff barriers replacing tariffs

Tariff barriers against African exports have fallen, but European and American non-tariff barriers, exacting high standards of compliance, have replaced them, blocking products and produce, Tanzanian deputy trade minister Gregory Teu told the National Assembly.

“American markets are open, but the standards that our products have to meet are too high for our producers to meet,” Teu said in his response to a question from parliamentarian Rita Mlaki who asked what was being done to exploit the two markets under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Everything but Arms (EBA) arrangements.

He said the government, through the Exports Processing Zones Authority (EPZA), was pursuing strategies to promote exports by local and foreign investors, but said the markets are practically inaccessible due to the stringent standards set. Tanzanian exports are chiefly coffee, cotton, sisal, tea, tobacco, cashew nuts and pyrethrum. Seems it should be called “Pain for Trade” not “Aid for Trade” Source: AllAfrica.com