Facilitating trade, reducing time and costs

If Zimbabwean truck driver Godfrey Magaba had a choice, he would use only the Chirundu Border Post between Zambia and Zimbabwe to ferry goods across the region.

The service at Chirundu has greatly improved,” he says. This is in contrast with other border crossings across the SADC region where customs and immigration procedures may take several hours or even days to be completed.

The massive reduction in time needed to clear customs at Chirundu is due to the successful launch of the One-Stop Border Post initiative in November 2009. This was in line with the SADC Protocol on Trade ratified in 2000.

The protocol advocates for the elimination of barriers to trade as well as the easing of customs and transit procedures.

Under this scheme, immigration and customs procedures are carried out just once in each direction, in contrast to the situation at most border posts in the region where paperwork must be completed on both sides.

Magaba says the simplified passage at Chirundu has saved his company huge sums of money since he no longer spends long periods waiting to cross.

In the past, it took commercial trucks between four and six days to cross the Chirundu Border. The typical charge for a stationary truck at the truck stops at the border is about US$300 a day, meaning Magaba’s company had to spend up to US$1 800 to cross Chirundu Border. These costs were passed on to the end-user, making goods more expensive for consumers in the region.

Since the introduction of the one-stop border initiative at Chirundu, the crossing time there has been reduced to less 30 hours on average. Vehicles with clearance can even cross on the same day.

Half of SADC’s 12 continental member states are landlocked, leaving major centres without direct access to sea port.

“Historically, our border posts were created not for trade, but for military and security reasons and now we need to change that to promote trade and the movement of persons throughout the region,” says Lovemore Bingandadi, Transport Corridors Advisor at the SADC Secretariat.

According to the Zambian Ministry of Commerce, traffic at Chirundu has more than doubled since the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) was launched in 2009.

“If the border crossing adopts 24-hour

operations, then we can easily achieve the same day crossing for the majority of commercial freight trucks,” Bingandadi explained.

Sixteen of the 35 most important border posts in the region have been identified as candidates for the one stop system by 2020.

However, Bingandadi expects more to follow quickly, once the most difficult groundwork of putting in place policy and legal frameworks are completed.

South Africa is in the process of adopting a national policy and strategy which will allow the Beitbridge and Lebombo border posts, among others, to work towards operating as OSBPs.

At Beitbridge, feasibility studies have shown that paperwork, currently requiring 24 steps on each side of the border, could be reduced to just eight once the OSBP is operational.

The opportunity cost for commercial companies is about US$250-500 per day when the truck is stationary. More efficient border crossings means more efficient business as both vehicles and crews can be more productively utilised.

The reduced time spent at the border by drivers and goods also reduces the chances of social ills such as corruption, pilferage and increased exposure to risky behaviour.

Equally, accidents from hazardous cargoes being parked for long hours at the border posts are reduced.

And getting business back on the roads quickly helps to drive greater business growth in the region. – sardc. net

October 2015
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