One-Stop Border Post Mulled

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Namibia could become the first country in Southern Africa to have a ‘One-StopBorder Post’. The One-Stop Border Post concept means that a truck travelling to Angola, for instance, will only stop once at Oshikango border post before entering that country, without having to stop again at the Angolan customs offices. There will be one office in which both Namibian and Angolan immigration officials will be deployed. A feasibility study by the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) to make the One-Stop Border Post concept a reality on the Namibian borders with Angola and Zambia is currently under way. The initiative is being supported by the Japanese Cooperation Agency. Oshikango border post with Angola in the north has been described as one of the busiest entry and exit points, hence it has become highly congested. Business is said to be thriving at Oshikango and in the northern regions in general. An over-crowded border point leads to mounting delays in delivering goods across the border, bribery and various other forms of corruption. In essence, a lot of congestion and logistical problems prevail at most borders points. The same scenario applies to Wenela border post between Namibia and Zamibia at Katima Mulilo, where even the use of “human taxis”, namely local youths used by foreign traders to carry goods illegally across the border, has become a common trend. In view of this situation, the WBCG wants to ensure the smoother flow of traffic at these two border points with the setting up of a One-Stop Border Post. Speaking at a recent press function about this and other developments by WBCG, Business Development Executive Johny Smith said it was vital that business people have much easier crossing at the northern borders. “We want to ensure smoother cross-border facilitation, where entrepreneurs in the business of imports and exports can transport their goods and spend the shortest time possible at the borders,” explained Smith. The new concept will also facilitate tourism and ensure a free flow of goods between the different Southern African countries. “Studies have shown that you can reduce your time at the border by at least 50 percent,” said Smith, adding that the One-Stop Border Post idea was initiated five years ago. Bevin Simaata, who recently joined WBCG and is in charge of cross-border facilitation, said the idea is to “minimise the cost of doing business”. “Previously the traditional way of doing things was more focussed on revenue collection, now we are changing to service delivery. We must be transparent in what we do – but we have to give it some time,” said Simaata. Meanwhile, the construction of two buildings is under way at either side of the Wenela border post in Katima Mulilo. Steps are also being taken to harmonise the procedures and protocols on trade and customs between Namibia and Zambia based on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) guidelines. Journalists raised the issue of two customs office structures being built on either side of the borders and not one. In response, Smith noted that although the One-Stop Border Post idea was initiated five years ago, the concept could not get off the ground at the time because of “political differences between Namibia and Zambia, in terms of security”. This in turn resulted in the building of two offices, but Smith reassured that both would work together in accordance with the SADC customs protocols. The One-Stop Border Post initiative is part of the WBCG’s holistic approach in promoting the port of Walvis Bay as a major import and export facility for development of the country and the entire Southern African Region. “It is a critical access point for Southern Africa and linking us with Europe and America. In order to promote the long-term benefits of economic development, we need to facilitate more imports and exports through Walvis Bay and link them up with the three Trans-Kalahari corridors (TKCs) with Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, DRC, and Angola,” explained Smith. Other major developments envisaged by WBCG are the possibility of a dry port opportunity at the Port of Walvis Bay for Zambia and the establishment of the TKC Secretariat Office that serves Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The focus this year will be to create awareness within the SADC Region. A meeting is planned for April 2 where a business development excursion of WBCG member companies is expected to go to Kitwe in Zambia to identify potential business opportunities in the Copperbelt. It is envisaged that copper production will increase by at least 40 percent during the next three years. Walvis Bay Port could therefore be used as a distribution facilitator between the various SADC countries.