The One-Stop Solution

Windhoek – The harmonisation of customs and transit procedures has been touted as beneficial for spurring trade and reducing the cost of doing business in Southern Africa.

Chirundu became the first operational One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) in Africa south of Sahara back in December 2009. The OSBP between Zambia and Zimbabwe has reportedly resulted in economic savings worth US$600 000 per day since 2010.

But somehow, the region has not built on the success to move with haste in establishing other OSBPs.

One of the recommendations made by countries that participated in the recent workshop on regional infrastructure development at Walvis Bay, Namibia, was that SADC should invest in constructing OSBPs.

Countries in the East African Community have learnt our lesson for us and are now forging ahead with a regional plan to build OSBPs.

Recently, East African legislators endorsed their OSBP 2012 Bill and are now waiting for EAC Heads of State to adopt this.  

Borders designated in the EAC for OSBPs include the Taveta-Holili border and the Namanga border (Kenya-United Republic of Tanzania), Busia and Malaba borders (Kenya–Uganda), and the Kanyaru-Akanyaru border (Burundi-Rwanda).  Others are the Mutukula border (United Republic of Tanzania-Uganda), Gasenyi-Nemba border (Burundi, Rwanda) and Lungalunga-Horohoro border (Kenya–United Republic of Tanzania).

Rwanda is at the forefront of steering construction of OSBPs in East Africa as it recognises the economic and logistical benefits of the set-up.

Ruhwa One-Stop Border Post is the second shared between Rwanda and Burundi following the opening of Gasenyi-Nemba OSBP in Bugesera District in 2011.

According to Rwanda’s Minister of State for Transport, Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana, plans are underway to set up another such border post between Rwanda and Burundi at Akanyaru in Southern Province.

It is not all gloom, however, in SADC.

Progress has been registered in establishing an OSBP at Mamuno border post between Botswana and Namibia.

Mamuno border post is expected to be piloted as an OSBP this month, as part of the two governments’ plans to reduce the time spent crossing between the countries.

OSBPs help countries cut their individual costs and also result in shared security improvement.

All these lead to more effective border controls.

The pilot project is expected to then roll-over to other border posts in the near future. Although these can be seen as remarkable steps in spurring trade, much work, and spirited action is still needed.

South Africa and Mozambique are just now talking about signing final portions of their OSBP agreement.

Considering the time that it also takes to have a complete operational OSBP the sluggish pace being taken by countries is not thrilling.    

With other support work that includes road infrastructure and computerisation of customs and border agencies needed to create OSBPs, political and financial commitment is needed from SADC countries to make these schemes operational.

It has been reported widely that a combination of road checkpoints, customs procedures, delays at border posts and transport infrastructure bottlenecks are choking African trade; working against efforts to boost intra-continental trade.

This paper reported earlier this year that the African Development Bank (AfDB), in its analysis of some of the key problems stifling the ability among countries on the continent to do business with each other, cites lack of sound road, rail and ports infrastructure; cumbersome customs procedures; road checkpoints; and corruption as major issues governments should address to trade.

Analysts at AfDB say improving border posts and customs procedures will boost government revenues by potentially up to 25 percent.

Simplifying and harmonising customs and border procedures, encouraging use of new technology by customs agencies, eliminating corruption and illegal payments including bribes to officials, and reducing the number of checkpoints, will see SADC countries improving on their trade performance.

At border posts across Africa, customs transactions usually involve 20 to 30 different parties, 40 documents, 200 data elements (30 of which are repeated at least 30 times), and the rekeying of 60-70 percent of all data at least once.

Traders complete two sets of controls on each side of most border posts, with numerous documents to be filled and cleared.

“These administrative hurdles escalate trade costs (it is estimated that each day of delay at customs is equivalent to an additional 85 km between the trading countries).

“They also encourage illicit trade and corruption in order to bypass delays at customs and border posts,” AfDB says.

Delays can be circumvented by investment in automated systems for document checking and clearing.

The few border posts that are technologically up to scratch sometimes have to contend with equipment breakdowns and interrupted electricity supplies.

“An even more serious challenge is that of corruption and illicit trade, which is extremely high at most border posts.

“As the transparency and predictability of trade and business administrations are lacking, most customs officers and companies/traders routinely find themselves engaged in bribery acts and the under-declaration of goods as means to facilitate payment.”

Waiting time at border posts can range from three minutes to 2.8 days and the cumbersome process in processing customs documentation can cost a consignment US$185 for each day of delay, AfDB says.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, traders have to contend with the large number of border posts and road blocks.

Truckers can wait for as much as 36 hours at Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

But the situation is much better at Chirundu OSBP.

Chirundu handles on average 268 trucks daily and each vehicle such takes just two hours to clear the border (it used to take two to three days before establishment of the OSBP). And the fast-track clearance process takes a mere 15 minutes.

August 2013
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