Malawi, Tanzania move towards One Stop Border Post
The Southern African Development Community’s quest to facilitate trade and free movement of goods and services continues to gather momentum, with two more countries from the region moving closer to opening another one-stop border post.
Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania have taken the first step towards creation of a one-stop border post at the Songwe-Kasumulu entry point in a move aimed at facilitating the free movement of persons and goods between the two SADC member states.
Zimbabwe and Zambia were the first countries to establish a one-stop border post when they opened the Chirundu One-Stop Border Post in 2009.
Officials from Malawi and Tanzania, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in March that formalised the creation of a single customs and immigration centre at their common border.
Under the MoU, the border posts of Kasumulu in Tanzania and Songwe in northern Malawi will be operating under one umbrella by the end of the year.
Under the one-stop border post scheme, travellers and goods are cleared just once for passage into another country in contrast with the current situation where they have to be sanctioned on both sides of the border.
This development is widely expected to address issues of delays, which are often experienced at most border posts as well as promote the smooth flow of goods through the removal of often perceived “restrictive” operational procedures at borders.
Speaking during the signing ceremony held on the sidelines of the SADC Council of Ministers meeting in Malawi, the Tanzanian Finance Minister Saddah Mkuya Salum said the development will help to reduce the cost of doing business between the two countries.
“Establishment of the single customs and immigration centre at the Songwe-Kasumulu border will not only reduce costs of doing business, but also cement the existing bilateral relations between the two countries,” she said.
The Malawian Industry and Trade Minister, Sosten Gwengwe, said the common border post will bring efficiency of people, goods and services between the two neighbours.
He said the current arrangement where persons and goods are cleared twice to cross from one country to another was costly in terms of time spent at the border.
He was confident the proposed centre would facilitate smoother transportation of Malawi-bound cargo from Tanzania, since the former is a landlocked country.
Mkuya said experts from both countries would soon be meeting to develop a work plan on how to implement the project.
Chirundu One-Stop Border Post was selected a few years ago as one of the border posts for the pilot phase of the one-stop border initiative as the region strives to promote trade and movement of people between its member states’ borders.
It is located on either side of the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is a very busy border with between 300 to 400 trucks crossing the border each day.
Those from Zimbabwe are checked and cleared on the Zambian side, while those heading into Zimbabwe are cleared by that country’s authorities.
Trucks pass through a state-of-the-art scanner that sees into containers, examining them in just four minutes. Four red-brick banks are on the premises to facilitate customs payments and pre-clearance for shipments, enabling trucks once delayed for at least two or three days to zip through in half an hour if everything is in order.
Truckers confirm that the process has become faster taking a matter of hours or a day when in the past they were held at the border for five to seven days.
The Beitbridge border post linking South Africa and Zimbabwe is another port of entry that had been chosen by SADC for the pilot phase but work is yet to start.
However, during the 2010 Soccer World Cup finals hosted by South Africa, Pretoria and its neighbour Zimbabwe agreed to implement a one-stop border post at Beitbridge to speed up the flow of human and vehicle traffic.
Travellers were cleared once for passage into the two countries and not twice in both countries.
Beitbridge and Chirundu are considered to be among sub-Saharan Africa’s busiest ports of entry with hundreds of southward or northward commercial trucks passing through the two border posts every day. Beitbridge is the busier of the two.
The concept of one-stop border posts addresses issues of delays, which are often experienced at most border posts as well as promote the smooth flow of goods through the removal of often perceived “restrictive” operational procedures at borders.
In the long run, the project seeks to harmonise customs and immigration laws at border posts within the SADC region.
SADC is expected to roll out the one-stop border post concept to other regional ports of entry as it seeks to harmonise customs laws and promote the free movement of goods among member states in preparation of the SADC Customs Union as well as to consolidate gains of the SADC FTA launched in August 2008. ‑ SADC Today/Southern Times Writer