Facilitating Trade and Strengthening Market Access in the Southern African Customs Union: A Focus on South Africa’s Customs Reform

Victor Amadi Patricia Lenaghan

In the modern business environment, emphasis is placed on timely production, requiring timely delivery and fast and predictable release of goods at the borders. Experiencing delays in the supply chain of goods increases transaction costs, which can, in consequence, raise the price of export and import products. South Africa is a developing state that needs to be competitive on every front to secure economic growth considering the current push towards the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This article aims to tackle the issue of non-tariff barriers to trade, particularly restrictive customs and administrative procedures at border crossings in the Southern region, by exploring trade facilitation measures which can be crucial for integration and development. Trade facilitation regulates behind-the-border measures and encompasses reform of a country’s customs policies and infrastructure as customs operations can be characterised by a complex array of requirements for traders, including documentation requirements. This article accordingly examines how South Africa is evolving its customs environment to facilitate trade further and to enhance market access of goods into the country and the Southern region. South Africa has adopted a Custom Modernisation Programme (CMP) under the guidance of the South African Revenue Services (SARS). The adoption of this programme can potentially reduce the delays in trade transactions at border points.

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