By YVONNE CHATE –
NATIONAL economic growth is largely dependant on ease and clear cut local and international trade.
The said trade in both goods and services are necessitated by the fact that no single country can produce all its needs, hence the interdependence that has been created by various nations.
Zambia, like other countries has not been left out in harnessing its business relation with the international community.
This has been seen in the achievement of membership to various organs that directly promote international trade such as Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Zambia has developed her own mechanisms aimed at promoting foreign trade among them, the upgrading and construction of modern border facilities.
It is in that vein that Government under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative constructed a US$25 million worth trade facility at Kasumbalesa border post in Chililabombwe.
The structure was constructed soon after it envisaged results of enhancing the clearance of cargo carriers and other goods and services.
This was indeed a welcome development as having a modern facility on the Zambian side was to increase the number of economic benefits not only for Zambia and Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) but also for other individual traders.
This reduced the cost of doing business due to the fast clearance of cargo on both sides.
The new structure also improved monitoring and security mechanisms as it had features such as Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) high zoom cameras remote monitored from a control room.
The installed IT systems enabled Government and other agencies access to pertinent security, safety, clearance and health data resulting in improved monitoring of illegal items, trafficking, hazardous goods, livestock and matters relating to cold storage.
For sure the modernisation of border facilities was cardinal to Zambia’s social and economic agenda and the PPP initiative is probably the sure way of speeding up the process.
The PPP initiative entails a private sector partner in financing and running a particular infrastructure for an agreed concession period then hand it over to the state at no fee.
The PPP should however be extended to other sectors of the economy besides the border posts.
When the border was constructed, increase in the number of traffic lanes was envisioned to reduce the clearing process that would have made the Kasumbalesa border post commensurate increase in revenue to the national coffers.
But this had not been the situation at Kasumbalesa boarder and one would not know how the clearing process was done.
Of late, there was an influx of foreigners who had seized business opportunities around the boarder with DRC traders literally taking over the show at Kasumbalesa including the no man’s land and this raised business prospects at the border.
One customs officer observed that the fact that Zambia depends more on exports, traders from DRC crossing the border with goods in small quantities are allowed though they know that some use illegal entry and exit points.
Boycolts, strikes, protests and murder cases were common occurances emanated from congestion at the border post in the past five years, increased internal and external trade has also contributed to congestion.
This is so because trade accounts for a good part of any country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and works as a source of revenue for national development.
But the unending clearance processes of man, machine and goods comes with its own constraint.
Truckers and traders are forced to sleeping in their trucks and on the streets which exposes them to a number of negative things.
Truckers and traders are exposed to insecurity on either boarder side such that they loose belonginngs and miss parts from their vehicles.
Traders who only seek a smooth flow or transit of their goods do not experience that as they are sometimes delayed on their way from Kasumbalesa to Kolwezi in the DRC.
According to a Congolese police official, while on errand the truckers and other business persons are engaged in un-intended behaviour such as paying sex-workers to satisfy their pleasure.
This would in-turn increase a number of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and other STI’s.
This has not been all, traders have also been exposed to harassments by junior police officers who demand money in-order to transport their goods.
In the proposal to address the challenges faced by traders and truckers, the Congolese government assured Zambian traders maximum security and freedom of movement while on their business errands in that country.
This was shortly after the DRC received complaints of harassment and insecurity of foreign truckers by the Southern African Development Community-SADC Truck Association of Zambia (SATDAZ) through Zambian, Zimbabwean and South African consul generals’ in Lubumbashi.
Congolese interior minister Junenial Lugoma who is in charge of home affairs instructed the police to reduce on check points between Kasumbalesa and Kolwezi to ease the movement of foreign truckers in DRC.
Mr Lugoma was speaking at a meeting with truck drivers, consul generals’ and Congolese government officials at Kasumbalesa Gomes boarder on May 25 this year.
He said his government would also put up sanitation facilities between Kasumbalesa and Kolwesi as truckers had in the past complained of challenges in this area.
“We will ensure that we put up quality public sanitation facilities in all parking places to address the challenges experienced by the truckers,” he said.
During the same event, Zambian Consul General Davies Sankwana commended the truckers for not engaging in violence but opting to solve their grievances through dialogue.
“I commend you for not doing what you at times do better but bringing the issue to book on the table between the Zambian Government and Congolese government.
And the Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) between Zambia and DRC urged the defense and security wings of the two countries to curb transnational crimes along the common border.
JPC singled out incidences of smuggling, theft of motor vehicles, illegal migration, drug and human trafficking as being rife and threatening the security of both wings.
JPC Chairperson Davies Mwila, who is also Home Affairs Minister, and Co-chairperson Evaristo Boshab, who is Congolese vice-prime minister read the communique at the close of the nineth edition.
It was revealed in the meeting that a memorandum of understanding would be signed at the 10th session of the JPC slated for the DRC next year to introduce new measure.
The commission commended efforts of the two countries in eliminating negative forces that hindered the promotion of peace and harmony.
And in order to get rid of the envisioned challenges such as theft of goods from either motor vehicle or individuals that come due to delay in clearing process at border posts the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) have centralized the system.
Out of the ZRA 2014 agenda of easing the clearing process ZRA has put up a Central Processing System (CPS) Centre’s for clearing goods in and out of Congo.
The CPS has designed to have Centre’s in Ndola, Kabwe and Lusaka were cleared goods will be monitored from, and this entails that one would clear their goods from anywhere and at anytime because the process operates 24 hours..
The system is now called Automated System of Customised Data (ASYCUDA) world from automated system of customised data.
ZRA corporate and communications manager Mumbuna Kufekisa said the system is time effective and efficient.
With the centralised clearing process you can now clear your goods at any place and the envisioned constraints that come with late clearing such as congestion, diseases and theft would be wiped away
Trade facilitation (TF) is vital for Africa’s own competitiveness as it will reduce costs for traders. While tariffs have progressively fallen, the key challenge to intra-African trade is non-tariff barriers that stifle the movement of goods, services and people across borders.
Trade facilitation measures in the coastal and transit countries also have spillover impact to the hinterland countries.
Due to such positive externalities some TF reforms and investments need to be viewed as regional public goods.
The Kazungula Bridge and the Chirundu One-Stop Border Post are just two examples. Although the Kazungula Bridge connects Zambia and Botswana; most traffic is in transit to the DRC thereby spreading the benefits to a broad region.