Archives For Southern African Development Community

The SADC Rules of Origin are the cornerstone of the SADC intra-trade and serve to prevent non-SADC members benefiting from preferential tariffs. The determination of the eligibility of products to SADC origin and the granting of preferential tariffs to goods originating in the Member States is an important process in the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade and regional integration. Annex I of the SADC Protocol on Trade provide that goods shall be accepted as eligible for preferential treatment within the SADC market if they originate in the member States, and the qualification of such products shall be as provided in Appendix I of Annex I of the Protocol on Trade.

The 2nd Customs Training of Trainer Course was held on the SADC Rules of Origin at the World Customs Organization (WCO) Multilingual Regional Training Centre, Mauritius Revenue Authority from the 25th -30th November 2013. The objective of the training course is to establish a pool of trainers on the SADC Rules of Origin who can provide guidance and train on the subject at national level to Customs officials and relevant Stakeholders.

During his opening address, Mr Sudamo Lall, Director General of the Mauritius Revenue Authority, laid emphasis on the critical importance of the ‘Rules of Origin’ as it has ‘great impact on the duties to be collected, as businesses increasingly locate the different stages of their activities in a way that optimizes their value-addition chain’. On the other hand Mr James Lenaghan Director Customs mentioned that ‘the Rules of Origin in any Free Trade Area are of prime importance as they serve to determine which goods can benefit from preferential tariffs. This enables member states of a particular Free Trade Area to benefit from the tariffs advantages inherent to the Protocol of trade agreed within that Free Trade Area. Since Customs is the controlling agency for preferential origin, it is vital that our officers are trained to correctly apply the SADC Rules of Origin’.

During their short visit at the training workshop, the Executive Secretary ,Dr Stergomena Tax and the WCO Secretary General, Mr Kunio Mukiriya addressed the group on the importance of rules of origin as the basis for regional integration. Dr. Tax also urged the participants from all SADC Member States to cascade the knowledge gained at the Centre to their respective countries.

The SADC Customs Training of Trainers programme is being implemented in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB), the WCO Regional Training Centres and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Source: SADC Secretariat

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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)

NamPort ExpansionThe African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and Namibia on Friday, November 8, 2013 signed a ZAR 2.9 billion (US $338 million) sovereign guaranteed loan to the Nambian Ports Authority (Namport) to finance the construction of the new container terminal at Port of Walvis Bay and a UA 1.0 million grant (US $1.5 million) to the Government of Namibia for logistics and capacity building complementing the port project loan. The project was approved by the AfDB Group in July 2013.

The project is expected to enable Namport to triple the container-handling capacity at the Port of Walvis Bay from 350,000 TEUs to 1,050,000 TEUs per annum. It will also finance the purchase of up-to-date port equipment and the training of pilots and operators for the new terminal. The grant component will fund the preparation of the National Logistics Master Plan study, technical support and capacity-building for the Walvis Bay Corridor Group and training of freight forwarders.

According to the AfDB Director of Transport and ICT, Amadou Oumarou: “Through this project which potentially serves up to seven major economies in the SADC region, the Bank is assisting in the diversification and distribution of port facilities on the southwest coast of Africa, and provides the much-needed alternative for the region’s landlocked countries.”

The project will stimulate the development and upgrade of multimodal transport corridors linking the port to the hinterland while improving the country’s transport and logistics chains. It will also boost competition among the ports and transport corridors in the region with the ripple effect on reductions in transportation costs and increased economic growth.

The projected project outcomes include improvement in port efficiency and increase in cargo volumes by 70% in 2020 as a result of increased trade in the region. The benefits of the project will include among others, the stimulation of inter-regional trade and regional integration, private sector development, skills transfer and most importantly employment creation, leading to significant economic development and poverty reduction in Namibia, and the SADC region. Source: African Development Bank

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ressano-garcia_snapseedParliment’s standing committee on finance (SCoF) on Wednesday finally adopted a bilateral agreement between South Africa and Mozambique that brings the creation of a one-stop border post between the two countries a step closer.

The move has been six years in the making. The facility is expected to expedite the movement of goods and people, reduce congestion and delays, and lower the cost of cross-border trade.

Members of Parliment heard on Wednesday that the World Bank estimated that a one-day reduction in inland travel time in sub-Saharan Africa could result in a 7% increase in exports. Further, reducing export costs 10% through greater efficiency could increase exports 4.7%.

Parliament is in the process of ratifying the bilateral legal framework for the one-stop border post between South Africa and Mozambique at Lebombo-Ressano Garcia. It is the first bilateral framework of its kind for South Africa and is likely to be replicated in other parts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The facility is expected to expedite the movement of goods and people, reduce congestion and delays, and lower the cost of cross-border trade

SADC has made a commitment to implementing such bilateral agreements throughout the region.

South Africa is in discussion with Zimbabwe about having a one-stop border post at Beitbridge, which is notorious for its congestion and long delays. The committee heard from Department of Home Affairs officials that a single visa for the region was also planned once systems have been integrated and secured.

The one-stop border post facility and access roads to Lebombo-Ressano Garcia have already been built and were just awaiting the go-ahead from the South African and Mozambican governments to begin operating. Each country would have a designated area in the combined facility for customs control but housing them in one unit would mean that goods would only have to be offloaded and loaded back onto trucks once for inspection.

South African Revenue Service senior executive Kosie Louw said the benefits of one-stop border posts were reduced border crossing times and reduced logistics costs. Further, they simplified and harmonised border control and administration, and integrated risk and information management.

A reduction in corruption and illegal imports was another benefit, Mr Louw said. Frequent travellers will be processed speedily through the use of fingerprints. A key element of the agreement is to provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction at the commonly held border posts and to deal with arrest, detention and seizure of goods. Both parties will be entitled to apply their own domestic customs laws within the common control zone.

The formal agreement for the project was signed between the two countries in September 2007 and the Cabinet gave its approval in August 2011 for the bilateral legal framework to be finalised and presented to Parliament. Source: BDlive.co.za

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.

South African Trade & Industry Minister Rob Davies

South African Trade & Industry Minister Rob Davies

South Africa has adopted a new trade policy approach aimed at looking at its own interest first, despite a drive for more regional integration to sustain Africa’s trade growth with the rest of the world. Importers of several products have been experiencing dramatic increases in tariffs from South Africa, as well as an increase in anti dumping and safeguard measures aimed at protecting South African industries.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies this week approved the increase of tariffs on frozen poultry following an application by the local poultry industry. George Geringer, a senior manager at PwC, said regional trade relations had been put on the back burner in favour of measures to protect South African manufacturing industries against cheaper imports.

“Government realised that manufacturing as a percentage of gross domestic product has declined from about 40% to about 12% in the past 20 years,” Mr Geringer said at the 16th Africa Tax and Business Symposium hosted by PwC in Mauritius.

Trade between Africa and the rest of the world has increased by more than 200% in the past 13 years, with optimism from the World Bank that Africa could be on the brink of an economic takeoff, similar to that of China and India two decades ago.

A key element for Africa to sustain the trade growth is regional integration to build economies of scale and size, in order to compete with other emerging markets – but limited resources, internal conflict and the lack of a mechanism to monitor the integration process is blocking it, says trade analyst from PwC.

South Africa has been regarded as the “champion” of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc). Sadc member countries eliminate tariffs, quotas and preferences on most goods and services traded between them. The member countries include Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The assistant manager at PwC’s international trade division, Marijke Smit, said less than 10% of African nations’ trade was with each other, compared with 70% between member states of the European Union. Benefits of regional integration include increased trade flows, reduced transaction costs, and a regulatory environment for cross-border networks to flourish. Ms Smit said an unsupportive business environment and cumbersome regulatory framework, weak productive capacity, inadequate regional infrastructure, poor institutional and human capacity, and countries’ prioritising their own interests stood in the way of integration.

Mr Geringer referred to the new action plan endorsed by leaders from the African Union in January last year. The plan will see the creation of a continental free-trade area by 2017. The enlarged free-trade area will include Sadc, the East Africa Community and the Common Market for South and East Africa (Comesa). The trade bloc will include 26 nations in three sub-regions. Source: BDLive.com

Cars and trucks at the South African border at Musina, Limpopo, queue to cross into Zimbabwe. The Unctad report says there are traditional transport routes in Africa - Photo: Motshwari Mofokeng.

Cars and trucks at the South African border at Musina, Limpopo, queue to cross into Zimbabwe. The Unctad report says there are traditional transport routes in Africa – Photo: Motshwari Mofokeng.

An official in the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), complains that Africa’s leaders repeatedly sign trade agreements and fail to implement them. Launching the organisation’s 2013 Africa development report in Johannesburg, Patrick Osakwe said leaders should set more realistic targets and “do more serious research” on the viability of the agreements.

Intra-African trade represents only about 11 percent of Africa’s total trade with the world, despite official commitments to improve the flows. Osakwe cited the case of the regional industrial policy adopted by the Economic Community of West African States in June 2010, which “has yet to be fully implemented”.

In June 2011 President Jacob Zuma announced talks on a 26-nation free trade agreement between three existing trading blocs, including the Southern African Development Community, of which South Africa is a member. Experts greeted the proposal with scepticism, noting a long history of leaders signing commitments to free trade or regional integration, but failing to follow through.

The Unctad report, which was launched simultaneously in Geneva and in centres in Africa, said development should be seen in a regional context: co-operation among countries in a broader range of areas than just trade and trade facilitation. It should include investment, research and development, and regional infrastructure development.

The report cited the Maputo Development Corridor linking Gauteng to the port of Maputo as “a successful, true transport corridor that has unlocked landlocked provinces in one of the most highly industrialised and productive regions of southern Africa”.

It said: “There are currently more than 20 corridors in operation in Africa but most tend to be traditional transport corridors. There is a need to move beyond that and to create industrial development corridors as well.

The report focused on intra-African trade and urged governments to unlock the private sector’s potential so that they could successfully diversify their economies. Most African countries are heavily dependent on commodities to grow their economies.

Africa accounts for only 1 percent of global manufacturing, and manufacturing represents only about 10 percent of African gross domestic product, compared with 35 percent for east Asia and the Pacific, and 16 percent for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The share of manufacturing in intra-African trade fell from about 54 percent between 1996 and 2000 to 43 percent between 2007 and 2011, as the value of commodity exports soared.

The report identified a major challenge to expanding the manufacturing sector. The average manufacturing company in sub-Saharan Africa has 47 employees, compared with 171 in Malaysia, 195 in Vietnam and 393 in Thailand. The small size of the operations prevents businesses from achieving economies of scale.

Other barriers were weak linkages between small and large firms, a high share of informal firms, low levels of export competitiveness and a lack of innovation capability. Transport costs were also prohibitive. “In central Africa, transporting 1 ton of goods from Douala in Cameroon to N’Djamena in Chad costs $0.11 (R1.10) per kilometre, more than twice the cost in western Europe and more than five times the cost in Pakistan.” Source: www.iol.co.za

WTO-SPS-Measures-Presentation-Transcript-23698Cabinet approved South Africa’s ratification of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Annex to the Southern African Development Community‘s (SADC) Protocol on Trade and for this to be submitted to Parliament.

Agriculture is one of the key sectors in the SADC region due to the sector having the highest potential for growth in terms of export. SADC realises, however, that the sector can only grow significantly if producers are able to access markets for agricultural products. To facilitate market access and promote intra Africa trade it is critical that border trade policies, including SPS measures be harmonised in line with international standards and guidelines in the interest of improving the movement of goods and services in the region. (Read in more red tape)

The SADC Protocol on Trade to which SA has acceded, serves to promote regional cooperation and integration amongst member states for trade in goods and services within the region, including agricultural products.

Article 16 of the Protocol encourages member states to base their Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures on international standards, guidelines and recommendations so as to harmonise SPS measures for plant health, animal health and food safety.

To give effect to the provisions of Article 16 of the Protocol, an SPS annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade was drafted and consequently adopted by the SADC Committee of Ministers of Trade (CMT), in July 2008.  Annex VIII to the SADC Protocol on Trade concerning SPS measures represents an enabling regional strategy to promote cooperation in SADC with regards to issues of food safety, plant health and animal health.

In addition, most SADC member states are also signatory members to the World Trade Organisation‘s Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (WTO-SPS) which places obligations on member states to ensure that the SPS measures they implement are least restrictive to trade, while being scientifically justifiable for the protection of human, animal or plant life and health.

The ratification and implementation of the SPS Annex will therefore facilitate improved mechanisms and institutional arrangements in conformity with obligations under the WTO-SPS agreement so as to minimise SPS related issues that impact the trade of agricultural and services trade within the region. Source: SA Government

Want to understand more on the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary MeasuresClick here!

 

0b8a0ce6140c04b4f629a97cb5e8d8f34e69d4a1The SADC, COMESA and EAC Tripartite alliance has been urged by various Zimbabwean, Zambian and Malawian exporters to salvage a potential crippling situation occurring at Mozambique borders. This follows the recent implementation of a new transit bond guarantee system which in conjunction with the Single Window system is allegedly causing significant delays, including loss of business and spiralling demurrage for transit goods emanating from these landlocked countries, en route for export from various Mozambique ports, Beira in particular.

Complaint no. NTB-000-578 in terms of ‘Lengthy and costly customs clearance procedures’ was lodged and can be viewed in full on the Tripartite’s NTB portal. Amongst the various problems sited, the complainants request the following of Mozambique –

  • Mozambique Ministry of Finance is requested to get customs to consider a parallel system to run with the electronic single window programme to clear the backlog in Beira port now and also consider providing release against Report orders to reduce further downtime in port . This will be a stop-gap measure until the customs staff are well versed , fully trained and that the new system can work well.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements with Cornelder to consider waiving storage for this special situation or at least offer 75% credit on the bills due which I must say are now astronomical based on the days the cargo has stayed in port both imports and exports.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements with shipping lines to consider waiving completely the demurrage due on the empty containers or at least give say 15-21 more days grace period before demurrage starts accruing.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements that Mozambique customs get technical assistance to assist roll this new programme out without causing huge catastrophes like this.

Mozambique has acknowledged the complaint and expressed regret over the developments. Mozambique reported that the issue was receiving urgent attention and they would provide feed back shortly.

National Planning Commission Minister - Trevor Manual

National Planning Commission Minister – Trevor Manual

South African Minister in the Presidency in charge of the National Planning Commission Trevor Manuel says Africa has a lot to learn from the ongoing European economic crisis in order to avoid making the same mistakes. Delivering a presentation under the theme “Africa and the European Financial Crisis — Opportunities and Risks” at the AMH Conversations dinner in Harare on Monday, Manuel said while the European Union (EU) moved at a fast speed towards convergence “we in Africa have been rather painfully too slow about convergence”.

“In fact, it’s so bad for us as Africans that 21 years after the Abuja Treaty was adopted and set out exactly what we need to do if we want to get to an African common market…we still need to focus on regional building blocks,” he said.

“We aren’t building blocks, I am afraid that we are just pebbles without mortar to hold us together. Its not about EU, not about the US (United States), not about the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank, its about us and the way we relate to each other, and in this context it is fundamentally important that we talk to each other as Africans about some of the hard truths that confront us.”

The former South Africa Finance minister said regional integration required hard work, honesty and convergence, adding that in a global economy, African countries would not be able to survive as individual entities. “As individual countries, we will not make it in the world. We will be picked off and become markets for the rest,” he said.

“So we can’t look to the rest of the world. We have to look to each other in our neighbourhood and understand that’s where change will be driven from. As we learn from Europe we look at ourselves in understanding what we should not do.”

He said institutions mattered both in good times and during a crisis, adding that it mattered for Africa to understand the speed at which countries develop as it builds regional institutions. Manuel said the Lisbon accord brought everybody together in a short space of time without ensuring that each country in the EU was moving at the same rate.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same event, Finance minister Tendai Biti described regional integration as imperative. “For me, with great respect to our principals and leaders, my great disappointment is with the structure of our regional bodies,” he said.

“If you go into the main summit of a SADC meeting, we spend 90% of the time discussing Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The actual reports from key ministers like Ministries of finance, regional integration and trade are basically footnotes that Head of States just sift through.” Source: Newsday (Zimbabwe).

Comment: The sad reality of it all is that it is Africa’s politicians which drive this process – they preside over the regional secretariat’s. Its time to provide the necessary guidance to the regional bodies. Moreover, if the ultimate goal is an African Union, why are multiple (overlapping) regional economic unions being promoted?

I post this article given it ties together many of the initiatives which I have described in previous articles. The appears to be an urgency to implement these initiatives, but the real question concerns the sub-continent’s ability to entrench the principles and maintain continuity. At regional fora its too easy for foreign ministers, trade practitioners and the various global and financial lobbies to wax lyrical on these subjects. True there is an enormous amount of interest and ‘money’ waiting to be ploughed into such programs, yet sovereign states battle with dwindling skills levels and expertise. Its going to take a lot more than talk and money to bring this about.

South Africa is championing an ambitious integration and development agenda in Southern Africa in an attempt to advance what Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies describes as trade and customs cooperation within the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other regional trade organisations.

Central to pursuing this intra-regional trade aspiration are a series of mechanisms to combine market integration and liberalisation efforts with physical cross-border infrastructure and spatial-development initiatives. Also envisaged is greater policy coordination to advance regional industrial value chains. “Trade facilitation can be broadly construed as interventions that include the provision of hard and soft infrastructure to facilitate the movement of goods, services and people across borders, with SACU remaining the anchor for wider integration in the region,” Davies explains.

This approach is also receiving support from the US Agency for International Development (USAid), which recently hosted the Southern African Trade Facilitation Conference, held in Johannesburg.

Trade programme manager Rick Gurley says that virtually every study on trade in sub- Saharan Africa identifies time and cost factors of exporting and importing as the most significant constraints to regional trade potential. Limited progress has been made by SADC member States and SACU partners to tackle the factors undermining trade-based growth, limiting product diversification and increasing the price of consumer goods, including of foodstuffs. However, far more would need to be done to realise the full potential of intra-regional trade.

Regional Alliance
One high-profile effort currently under way is the Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA), which seeks to facilitate greater trade and investment harmonisation across the three existing regional economic communities of the SADC, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community.

The existing SADC FTA should be fully implemented by the end of the year, with almost all tariff lines traded duty-free and, if established, the T-FTA will intergrate the markets of 26 countries with a combined population of nearly 600-million people and a collective gross domestic product (GDP) of $1-trillion. At that size and scale, the market would be more attractive to investors and could launch the continent on a development trajectory, Davies avers. It could also form the basis for a later Africa-wide FTA and a market of some $2.6-trillion.

However, as things stand today, intra- regional trade remains constrained not merely by trade restrictions but by a lack of cross-border infrastructure, as well as poor coordination and information sharing among border management agencies such as immigration, customs, police and agriculture.Cross-national connectivity between the customs management systems is also rare, often requiring the identical re-entry of customs declarations data at both sides of the border, causing costly and frustrating delays.

USAid’s regional economic growth project, the Southern African Trade Hub, is a strong proponent of the introduction of several modern trade-facilitation tools throughout the SADC – a number of which have already been successfully pioneered. These tools, endorsed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Framework of Standards, which offers international best-practice guidelines, are aimed at tackling the high costs of exporting and importing goods to, from, and within Southern Africa, which has become a feature of regional trade and discouraged international investment.

Bringing up the Rear
A country’s competitiveness and the effec- tiveness of its trade facilitation regime are measured by its ranking on World Bank indices and, with the exception of Mozambique, Southern African States perform poorly – with most in the region settling into the lowest global quartile of between 136 and 164, out of a total of 183. “Our transaction costs in Africa across its borders are unacceptably high and inhibit trade by our partners in the private sector,” says WCO capacity building director Erich Kieck. “We need our States to develop good ideas and policies, but the true test lies in their ability to implement them,” he notes.

He adds that not only does trade facilitation require efficient customs-to-customs connectivity, but also demands effective customs-to-business engagement, adding that, while customs units are responsible for international trade administration, they are not responsible for international trade. “The private sector is the driver of economic activity and international trade, and government’s responsibility is to understand the challenges faced by the business community and develop symbiotic solutions,” Kieck notes.

Despite the establishment of regional trade agreements and regional economic communities in Southern Africa, many partner- ships have failed to deliver on their full potential to increase domestic competitiveness.

In a report, African Development Bank (AfDB) senior planning economist Habiba Ben Barka observes that, despite the continent’s positive GDP growth record – averaging 5.4% a year between 2005 and 2010 – it has failed to improve its trading position or integration into world markets. In 2009, Africa’s contribution to global trade stood at just under 3%, compared with nearly 6% for Latin America and a significant 28% for Asia.

“Since 2000, a new pattern of trade for the continent has begun to take centre stage, as Africa has witnessed an upsurge in its trade with the emerging Brazil, Russia, India and China economies. Overall, Africa is trading more today than in the past, but that trade is more with the outside world than internally,” says Ben Barka. She adds that while many African regional economic communities have made some progress in the area of trade facilitation, much greater effort is required to harmonise and integrate sub-regional markets.

To address enduring trade barriers, consensus among business, government and trade regulators appears to lean towards the adoption of one or a combination of five facilitation tools. These include the National Single Window (NSW), the One-Stop Border Post (OSBP), cloud-based Customs Connectivity, Coordinated Border Management (CBM) and Customs Modernisation Tools.

A National Single Window
NSWs connect trade-related stakeholders within a country through a single electronic-data information-exchange platform, related to cross-border trade, where parties involved in trade and transport lodge standardised trade-related information or documents to be submitted once at a single entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements.Mauritius was the first SADC country to implement the NSW and consequently improved its ranking on the ‘Trading Across Borders Index’ to 21 – the highest in Africa. It was closely followed by Ghana and Mozambique, which have also reported strong improvements.

Developed in Singapore, the benefits of government adoption include the reduction of delays, the accelerated clearance and release of goods, predictable application, improved application of resources and improved transparency, with several countries reporting marked improvement in trade facilitation indicators following the NSW implementation.

In South Africa, the work on trade facili-tation is led by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which focuses on building information technology (IT) connectivity among the SACU member States, and strengthen- ing risk-management and enforcement measures. However, SARS’ approach to the NSW concept remains cautious, Davies explains. “SARS has considered the viability of this option as a possible technological support for measures to facilitate regional trade, but considers that this would fall outside the scope of its current approach and priorities in the region,” he said.

One-Stop Border Posts
As reported by Engineering News in December last year, effective OSBPs integrate the data, processes and workflows of all relevant border agencies of one country with those of another, which culminates in a standardised operating model that is predictable, trans- parent and convenient. An OSBD success story in Southern Africa is the Chirundu border post, where a collaboration between the Zambia and Zimbabwe governments has culminated in a single structure, allowing officers from both States to operate at the same location, while conducting exit and entry procedures for both countries.

Launched in 2009, this OSBP model is a hybrid of total separation, joint border operations and shared facilities in a common control zone. Implementation of the model has reduced clearance times to less than 24 hours, significantly reduced fraudulent and illegal cross-border activity, enabled increased information sharing between border agencies and reduced the overall cost of export and import activities in the area.

Earlier this year, former South African Transport Minister Sibusisu Ndebele indicated that Cabinet was looking into establishing a mechanism that would bring all border entities under a single command and control structure to address the fragmentation in the country’s border operations, particularly at the high-traffic Beitbridge post between South Africa and Zimbabwe. “The ultimate vision is to create one-stop border operations to facilitate legitimate trade and travel across the borders,” he said.

Customs Connectivity and Data Exchange
Improved connectivity between customs limbs in sub-Saharan Africa has perhaps made the most indelible strides in the region, with improved IT connectivity between States identified as a priority by Sacu.

This includes customs-to-customs inter- connectivity, customs-to-business inter- connectivity and interconnectivity between customs and other government agencies. SACU members have agreed to pursue the automation and interconnectivity of their customs IT systems to enable the timely electronic exchange of data between administrations in respect of cross-border movement of goods. “As a consequence of this acquiescence, we have identified two existing bilateral connectivity programmes as pilot projects to assess SACU’s preferred connectivity approach, cloud computing between Botswana and Namibia and IT connectivity between South Africa and Swaziland,” says SACU deputy director for trade facilitation Yusuf Daya. He adds that a regional workshop was recently convened to explore business processes, functions, data clusters and the application of infrastructure at national level to improve and develop intra-regional links.

Coordinated Border Management
The SADC has been a strong proponent of CBM efforts in the region, which promotes coordination and cooperation among relevant authorities and agencies involved in, specifically, the protection of interests of the State at borders. “The union has drafted CBM guidelines for its members on implementation, based on international best practice, and has received indications of interest from several member States,” explains SADC Customs Unit senior programme officer Willie Shumba.He adds that CBM is a key objective of regional integration, enabling the transition from an FTA to a customs union and, eventually, to a common market, through effective controls of the internal borders.

Customs Modernisation
South Africa’s customs modernisation initiative is well advanced and came about following Sars’ accession to the WCO’s revised Kyoto Convention in 2004, which required customs agencies to make significant changes to it business and processing models. These changes included the introduction of simplified procedures, which would have fundamental effects on and benefits for trade and would require a modern IT solution.

Since its inception, the SARS Customs Modernisation Programme has gained tremendous momentum, with amendments to the Passenger Processing System and the replacement of SARS’s Manifest Acquittal System in the Automated Cargo Management system. Further adjustments were made to enable greater ease of movement of goods, faster turnaround times and cost savings, as well as increased efficiency for SARS. This phase included the introduction of an electronic case-management system, electronic submission of supporting documents, the centralisation of back-end processing in four hubs and an electronic release system and measures to enhance the flow of trucks through borders – in particular at the Lebombo and Beitbridge borders.

Proper Planning
AfDB’s Ben Barka warns that, prior to the implementation of any border improvement efforts by countries in Southern Africa, a thorough analysis and mapping of each agency’s existing procedures, mandate and operations should be undertaken.“Based on these findings, a new set of joint operational procedures need to be agreed upon by all involved agencies and must comply with the highest international standards,” she says.

Development coordination between States is essential, as the largest disparity among regional groupings, in terms of intra-regional trade, is clearly attributable to their differentiated levels of progress in various areas, including the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the freedom of movement of persons across borders and the development of efficient infrastructure. Source: Engineering News.

On a subject close to my heart. The National Detector Dog Unit of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is getting a boost with more than 70 new dogs and handlers being trained to make up a number of new dog units around the country. Apart from filling a couple of current vacancies, the new recruits will form part of Detector Dog Units in Port Elizabeth, Zeerust, Mahamba, Vioolsdrift, Nakop, Maseru Bridge and an expanded Mpumalanga unit. All the additional units are expected to become operational in the first quarter of 2013.

“By next year, most of the major land, sea and air ports should have their own detector dog units (DDU),” said the senior manager of the DDU, Hugo Taljaard. “The ultimate aim is to have dog units at every port, with a total of 500 new handlers and dogs needed. However, this is a long-term (four-year) project, aimed at enhancing our non-intrusive capabilities at ports of entry to prevent cross-border smuggling.”

The SARS Detector Dog Unit has also been asked recently to assist with training in Namibia and Angola, following the assistance we gave the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) to establish a Detector Dog capability. The DDU continues to see major successes countrywide, with a recent copper bust in the news last weekend.

Detector dog Umaga, an 18-month old German Shepherd, sniffed out 84kg of copper at the Beit Bridge border post during his first operation. Umaga recently completed his training as a copper sniffer dog. The copper was concealed in luggage in a trailer entering South Africa. Umaga is the second sniffer dog to be trained to sniff out copper. Milo, a five-year-old Labrador, has also already nosed out his first contraband copper. There has been an increase in the smuggling of copper wire across the border into South Africa, since copper has a much higher value here than in the other member states of the Southern African Development Community. The increase has meant that Customs has had to beef up its ability to detect contraband copper. The wire is usually concealed in compartments under trucks.

The Detector Dog Unit was the first in the world to train “dual application dogs”, Hugo explained. So instead of being trained or “imprinted” to detect only one scent, they are able to detect a combination of scents, e.g. narcotics and currency, tobacco and endangered species. Both Milo and Umaga are dual dogs and they can detect narcotics/tobacco and copper wire. The explosives detector dogs are the only dogs not dual trained due to the safety risk.

The dogs are an integral part of our Customs workforce and are seen as officers in their own right. They are therefore looked after with the utmost care and attention and are even provided with special reflector jackets, cooler jackets for the heat and dog shoes made to protect their feet from hot surfaces. Source: SARS Communications Division

Delegates from at least 20 African Customs Administrations met in Pretoria, South Africa between 13 and 15 August to advance developments towards a common framework and approach to IT inter-connectivity and information exchange in the region. Convened by the SADC secretariat in consultation with COMESA and Trademark Southern Africa (TMSA), the three day work session focussed on uniform acceptance of the WCO‘s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) methodology, regional awareness of customs developments in the Southern and East African region, as well as joint agreement on customs data to be exchanged between the member states.

Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) shared its experience with delegates on the launch of its Customs Enforcement Network (CEN). Kenya Revenue Authority will soon be sharing enforcement information with its MRA counterpart. At least 22 African countries are expected to link up with the CEN network over a period of time. Customs enforcement information is the second pillar of the WCO’s GNC information exchange methodology; the first pillar being Customs information exchange. The latter provides for a holistic approach to the dissemination of common customs data derived from supply chain exchanges, for example declaration information, cargo information, and AEO information to name but a few. This information is vital for trading countries to administer advance procedures and better validate the information being provided by the trade.

Rwanda Revenue Authority introduced it’s RADDex programme which is a web-based IT solution for the exchange of cargo manifest information between participating states in the East African Community (EAC) – see related article below.

SADC and COMESA are rallying their members to participate in the initiative. At the current juncture, various member states have expressed keen interest to participate. While the regional intention is the linking of all customs administration’s electronically, initial developments envisage bi-lateral exchanges between Customs administrations which are ready to engage. The importance of the adoption of the GNC methodology is to ensure that customs connectivity and information exchange is harmonised and consistent across the Southern and East African region irrespective of whether countries are ‘early adopters’ or not.

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)

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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