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Findings and recommendations of the Time Release Study conducted at the Oshoek port of entry between South Africa and eSwatini

Findings and recommendations of the Time Release Study conducted at the Oshoek port of entry between South Africa and eSwatini

Oshoek is the land border post between South Africa and Eswatini. It is strategically positioned along the N17 highway which connects roads that lead to Durban harbour and Mozambique and is therefore a very significant route for Eswatini.

Tshwane, Monday 20 May 2024 – The Customs Division of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the Eswatini Revenue Service (ERS) today made public the findings of a Time Release Study (TRS) on the flow of trade between Eswatini and South Africa at the Oshoek / Ngwenya border post that the two countries share.

The TRS is a significant step to facilitate the seamless flow of trade through Southern African Customs Union (SACU) borders.

The study was conducted from 14 November to 17 November 2023, gathering vital data, both physical and system-related data at the shared border post. The study was a collaborative effort by SARS, the Eswatini Revenue Service (ERS), and the World Customs Organisation (WCO) in partnership with UK Aid, the South African Border Management Authority (BMA), the South African Police Service (SAPS), and representatives from our cross-border trading community.

The TRS emanates from the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on 22 February 2017.  The TFA aims to expedite the movement, release and clearance of cross-border goods, measures for effective cooperation between Customs authorities and stakeholders, as well as provisions for technical assistance and capacity building.

The agreement includes the “Establishment and Publication of Average Release Times” (Article 6) using tools such as, inter alia, the Time Release Study (TRS) concept of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and encourages members to measure and publish the average release time of goods periodically and in a consistent manner.

The WCO Time Release Study is a strategic and internationally recognized tool to measure the actual time required for the release and/or clearance of goods, from the time of arrival until the physical release of cargo. The study aims to find bottlenecks in the trade flow and identify measures to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter emphasized the TRS as a vital initiative to identify supply chain bottlenecks, quantify trade facilitation results, and ensure predictability in trade-related procedures.

“As we embark on the journey towards Customs modernisation, I am confident that the insights gleaned from this TRS will inform our strategies and initiatives moving forward. Together, we will continue to strive for excellence in Customs administration, facilitating trade, and contributing to the sustainable development of Southern Africa,” he said.

The importance of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement cannot be over emphasised as it seeks to bring relief to 30 million Africans experiencing extreme poverty and boost the incomes of nearly 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 a day.

it is noteworthy that $292 billion of the estimated $450 billion in potential income gains from the AfCFTA,  would come from stronger trade facilitation measures – in other words, from measures to reduce red tape and simplify cross-border procedures to make it easier for African businesses to integrate into global supply chains.

The SARS Commissioner said that trade flows between RSA and ESwatini increased by R7.44 billion (15.7%) in 2023, due to an increase in exports of R4.22 billion (16.6%) and an increase in imports of R3.22 billion (14.6%). South Africa has maintained a trade balance surplus with Eswatini over the past five years.

Mr Kieswetter thanked the valuable co-operation of the ERS under the leadership of the Commissioner-General, Mr Brightwell Nkambule, and the Commissioner for Customs and Excise, Mrs Gugu Mahlinza. The study was conducted with the support of the British Government.

Key Findings and Recommendations:

  1. The national average time between cargo arrival and exit from Customs control is 34 minutes for imports and 1 hour 24 minutes for exports.
  2. The average time from submission of a Customs declaration to cargo release Customs Response CURES message on manifest is 42 minutes.
  3. Recommendations include further analysis of processes at the port of entry, enforcement of a linear process for truck drivers, and consideration of the feasibility of converting the border into a One-Stop Border Post (OSBP).
  4. Observation of non-linear processes in Customs halls, leading to delays.
  5. Identification of personal activities by truck drivers during border crossings impacting clearance and release time.
  6. Trucks arriving without pre-clearance causing hindrance to the flow of pre-cleared trucks.
  7. Time lag between cargo inspection completion and report submission by the HUB on Service Manager system causing waiting times.
  8. Recognition of border operations resembling an OSBP, endorsed by the WCO, necessitating further exploration.

Recommendations for Implementation:

  1. Consideration of short-run feasibility for converting the border into an One-Stop Border Post (OSBP).
  2. Engagement of all border agencies and the private sector in discussions and workshops.
  3. Benchmarking tour to the Rusumo OSBP for firsthand observation of best practices.
  4. Seeking WCO-Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme support to conduct workshops, draft Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), and build capacity within technical working groups.
  5. Acknowledgment of the challenges faced during the TRS and a call for the management to consider and implement the recommendations.

Here is the TRS Report.

For more information contact Ms Ntobeko Dlamini at [email protected] or Mr Anton Fisher at [email protected]

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