Analysis: GODFRIDAH CHANDA
IN SPITE of technological improvements in transport, communication and infrastructure, landlocked developing countries continue to face challenges accessing world markets.
The transport systems are characterised by congestion, bad railway networks and poorly maintained roads resulting in higher transport costs.
Lack of proper infrastructure, operational bottlenecks, and slow bureaucratic procedures at international border posts all compromise the global competitiveness of most developing countries and thus reducing the chances of meeting the development agenda.
Governments with cooperating partners are striving to come up with solutions that will make trade more effective and efficient in the region especially at border posts.
For instance, most national revenue authorities and immigration departments have made significant progress in implementing correct, systematic and effective controls to facilitate the movement of passengers and goods while ensuring effective revenue collection and enhanced public security. To this effect, most border posts have been modernised with ICT infrastructure to enhance the application of border controls to increase effectiveness.
Under the North-South Corridor initiative aimed at improving the business environment in the region Africa’s three economic communities — SADC, Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), and the East African Community (EAC), agreed to work together and boost economic ties, as well as put in place facilities to reduce the cost of trade in the region.
Among the many initiatives implemented, was the one stop border post (OSBP) concept, birthed in the 2000s as one of the modern approaches for improving border operations. However, the concept was only actualised in 2004 when the East African Community (EAC) together with the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority developed the East African Transport and Trade facilitation Project, which among other activities, called for the development of OSBPs in the region.
This model has boosted trade facilitation across borders by harmonising border control regulations and procedures and, thus, enabling expeditious and more effective border control mechanisms. It has the potential to improve the smooth flow of traffic at crossing points, as well as cutting down on the costs associated with the moving of goods across the borders.
According to the One-Stop Border Post Source book, “trade facilitation tool promotes a coordinated and integrated approach to facilitate trade, the movement of people and above all, improve security. It eliminates the need for travellers and goods to stop twice to undertake border crossing formalities. The OSBP further calls for the application of joint controls to minimise routine activities and duplications. Through a whole of Government, approach, the OSBP concept reduces the journey time for transporters and travellers, shortens the clearance time at border crossing points.” Also, the initiative has reduced the number of stops by consignments at border posts and other transactions by combining border control activities at a single location.
Current statistics have shown an increase in the number of persons and volumes across most borders in Zambia. Nakonde and Kasumbalesa borders have an average of about 400 and 470 north and south bound commercial and passengers per day. In that connection, cross border trading has also become a major economic activity mostly undertaken by Zambian small-scale business entrepreneurs. Cross border trading in the period between January to December, 2017 accounted for about US$1.5 million (K1.5 Trillion) of exports at four border posts namely Kasumbalesa, Mwami, Mukambo and Chirundu. Kasumbalesa exports accounted for 99.5 percent of these trade transactions. The main goods traded include agricultural products, livestock, manufactured foods, beverages and electronics.
As such, in its quest to advance its ongoing regional integration efforts, a May 2005 Council of Ministers decision in Kigali, Rwanda, COMESA Secretariat was directed to establish OSBP in the region. To this effect, in 2009, COMESA made Chirundu, serving Zambia and Zimbabwe a pilot for the introduction of one stop border posts in the region. Chirundu OSBP facility was born out of the COMESA council of ministers in 2005 in Kigali , Rwanda were it was recognised that the flow of trade in the north-south corridor could be enhanced by establishing a one stop Border post in the Eastern and Southern African region.
Chirundu was selected because of its strategic location as a node of trade between Southern and Eastern Africa and its role as a gateway between two busy regions made the port an ideal choice as a pilot site for the one-stop border control programme. The one-stop border post model at Chirundu was a result of support of development partners such as DFID and JICA, among others, who committed resources to the project in order to facilitate legitimate trade in the region. From the time Chirundu OSBP was established, traffic going into Zambia are being cleared on the Zambian side, while traffic getting into Zimbabwe gets cleared on the Zimbabwean side very effectively.
Since the implementation of the Chirundu OSBP in 2009, the concept has been expanded rapidly as a tool for improved trade within the region except the only impediment is financial constraints and other logistical problems have been identified as some of the major stumbling blocks in making the initiative a reality.
In this vein, the Zambian Government through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry has made strides in holding bilateral meetings with its neighbouring countries in ensuring that OSBPs are launched apart from Chirundu OSBP. OSBP Bilateral Agreement and the joint MoU for the Procurement Plan have been signed. Documentation relating to the establishment of a one stop border post, a simplified trade regime and the establishment of trade centres are as well discussed.
Zambia is integrated within two free trade areas, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which holds trade benefits among member countries. It is worth noting that among the initiatives to reduce border crossing time is the development of one stop border posts and the simplified trade regimes (STRs) through the establishment of trade information desks (TIDs) at selected border areas. In this regard, Zambia is complementing regional development plans as a strategic link of the corridor network in SADC and COMESA. This will in turn increase, the region’s ability to trade competitively in the international market in line with the May 2005 Council of Ministers decision in Kigali, Rwanda, where the COMESA Secretariat was directed to establish OSBPs in the region.
To support the implementation of the OSBP Concept, the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry will also be presenting the trade facilitation Coordinated Border Management Bill. The Bill will also facilitate agreements by the Republic of Zambia with neighbouring States on the implementation of one-stop Border processing arrangements.
It is envisaged that the operationalisation of the concept of OSBP is not only for facilitating trade and region integration but also for attracting the Foreign Direct Investor (FDI) in various sectors of the economy and strengthen Africa’s capacity to absorb external shocks.
The author is Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Public Relations officer.
Analysis: GODFRIDAH CHANDA