Ressano Garcia – Border Operations Assessment

As part of its Coordinated Border Management (CBM) program, the Southern African Trade Hub (SATH) undertook a Border Operations Assessment (BOA) at Ressano Garcia along the Mozambique/South Africa border. The objective of the assessment was to establish processes used by the different agencies to clear goods, identify challenges and recommend mechanisms to addresses obstacles. The assessment also entailed establishing the time it took for trucks to cross the border by physically recording arrival and departure times at points where the clearance of goods was undertaken.

SATH held discussions with both public and private agencies operating at the border: Customs, Immigration, Health, Agriculture, Police, Traders Association, Clearing and Forwarding Agents and Insurance Companies. The agencies explained their roles and mandates, how they carry out their day to day operations at the border, their working relations with other agencies at the border and the challenges they face in carrying out their duties.

SATH also had discussions with the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) project team to assess progress on the initiative. The OSBP is at an advanced stage and only awaits the adoption of the legal framework by South Africa, which is anticipated by the end of 2012.

Findings of the BOA and recommendations will be disseminated through a national and border workshops to which senior officials of agencies operating at the border and border officials will be invited. At these workshops Joint Border Committees will be established to take the recommendations forward to streamline border management.Source: SA Trade Hub

Namibia buys into ‘Single Window’ concept

From April 12-13, Southern African Trade Hub (aka USAID) presented Single Window as a cutting-edge tool for trade facilitation to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Finance, Customs and other private sector organizations, explaining how a NSW for Namibia could improve the Trading Across Borders index ranking, which currently stands at 142 out of 183 countries. Single Window is a crucial instrument that will eliminate inefficiency and ineffectiveness in business and government procedures and document requirements along the international supply chain, reduce trade transaction costs, as well as improve border control, compliance, and security.

Benefits for Government: A Single Window will lead to a better combination of existing governmental systems and processes, while at the same time promoting a more open and facilitative approach to the way in which governments operate and communicate with business. Traders will submit all the required information and documents through a single entity, more effective systems will be established for a quicker and more accurate validation and distribution of this information to all relevant government agencies. This will also result in better coordination and cooperation between the Government and regulatory authorities involved in trade-related activities.

Benefits for trade: The main benefit for the trading community is that a Single Window will provide the trader with a single point for the one-time submission of all required information and documentation to all governmental agencies involved in export, import or transit procedures. As the Single Window enables governments to process submitted information, documents and fees both faster and more accurately, traders would benefit from faster clearance and release times, enabling them to speed up the supply chain. In addition, the improved transparency and increased predictability would further reduce the potential for corrupt behaviour from both the public and private sector.

If the Single Window functions as a focal point for the access to updated information on current trade rules, regulations and compliance requirements, it will lower the administrative costs of trade transactions and encourage greater trader compliance. The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Industry and Trade underscored the need for Namibia to proceed with the Single Window concept, and advised participants that his Ministry, together with the Ministry of Finance, would jointly package the Single Window concept and submit it to Cabinet for Government approval.

In Southern Africa, Mauritius already has an effective Single Window, which is reflected in its “Trading Across Borders” ranking of 21. Mozambique recently launched its pilot Single Window. SATH will support and facilitate the processes for the establishment of a Botswana National Single Window system to streamline cross border trade. The current SATH Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) Cloud Computing Connectivity program, which is being piloted between Botswana and Namibia, provides an ideal technology platform for linking Botswana and Namibia Single Windows, leveraging the investment by BURS, Namibia Customs and SATH to date in the development of this system. SATH is currently in the process of gauging support for National Single Window in South Africa.

Excuse my cynicism, but the SA Trade HUB  has yet to demonstrate the viability of its Cloud Computing solution between Namibia and Botswana Customs. What is reported above is the usual sweet and fluffy adjectives which accompany most international customs and trade ICT offerings, ignoring prerequisite building blocks upon which concepts such as Cloud and Single Window may prove beneficial and effective. Past project failures in Africa are usually blamed on the target country in not bedding down or embracing the new process/solution – never the vendor. Given the frequency of technology offerings being presented by donor agencies on unwitting national states, there seems little foreign interest in ‘bedding down’ or ‘knowledge transfer’ than the ‘delivery of expensive technology’.

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TKC Pilot – linking regional Customs systems through the “Cloud”

FTW Online recently published an update on recent developments occurring along the Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC). It suggests that customs systems throughout the SADC region could soon be talking to each other through the Internet, if the pilot project between Namibia and Botswana is successful. During July 2011, the Southern African Trade Hub unveiled a plan to initiate a pilot programme to link the ASYCUDA systems of Namibia and Botswana via Microsoft’s Cloud Computing technology. Both Microsoft and USAID are partners in this initiative seeking to enable the two customs systems to communicate with each other through a secure portal. View the keynote presentation at the 2011 World Customs Organization IT Conference and Exhibition – Seattle, Ranga Munyaradzi (SATH) and Namibian Customs Commissioner, Bevan Simataa, were invited on-stage to elaborate on this initiative – click here!

According to Oscar Muyatwa, executive director of the Trans-Kalahari Corridor Secretariat, the initiative holds the prospect of opening up African opportunities in the United States for exports, as it is being supported by USAID as part of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). Both Namibian and Botswana Customs officials are to be trained in Cape Town over the next few months. The TKC Secretariat believe this initiative will bring about its vision of a ‘automated corridor’. Further ahead the TKCs envisages the establishment of One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) to reduce border dwell and transit times. Muyatwa says ‘The ‘cloud’ will maintain vast volumes of transit data that will assist future planning along the corridor as well as revenue and budgeting forecasts’. Source: FTW Online.

Comment: lest there be any confusion amongst Customs users, traders and carriers, the concept of cloud computing in the Customs sphere is very ‘clouded’ at this point. What needs to be considered is the ‘ownership’, rights to ‘access’ and ‘integrity of use’ of such information. Furthermore, as this is a first-of-its-kind initiative (in Africa at least); it would be highly recommended that the participants and developers ‘share’ details of the approach with other SACU members in order to better understand the programme. Up to this point it is very unclear how the developer has gone about the integration of customs information, for instance, since ‘users’ have not been fully involved in the scope, proof-of-concept or design of the system. 

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