In a speech read on his behalf, African Development Bank Vice President Mthuli Ncube told the ZITF International Business Conference last week that there had been a significant growth in the value of goods and services moving across the national borders but the Beitbridge Border Post, which was the busiest of all the crossing points, was costly to business due to the delays and hassles at the post.
The volume of trade across the region has risen from US $12,4 billion in 2000 to US $34 billion in 2010. It peaked at around US$36 billion in 2008 when Zimbabwe’s industrial capacity had sunk to record lows in the hyperinflationary era.
However, the country loses around US$35 million annually in transit time and transaction costs.
Government, through the Economic Planning ministry, has been promoting Zimbabwe as a preferred investment destination because of its central location as it links South Africa to other regional countries. Full advantages of the North-South Corridor can only be realised if efficiencies are improved at the Beitbridge Border post and upon completion of the Chirundu-Beitbridge Highway.
Ncube said the Beitbridge border post had numerous checkpoints which were costly to business. He believed the country could easily increase its export revenues and gain from the economies of scale if the crossing point system were overhauled.
“Zimbabwe and South Africa simply need to harmonise the customs processes in order to minimise delays, bribes and other bottlenecks.” He added that there was also poor infrastructure and unavailability of accommodation.
Ncube noted that any initiatives that had been followed to reduce congestion and bottlenecks had not yielded any success, the latest of which was the upgrade of the ASYCUDA computer system.
The Beitbridge border post normally clears about 3 300 cargo carriers and one million people but this can go up to 12 000 and four million during the peak seasons. About 80% of Zimbabwe’s imports are from South Africa while 63% of Zimbabwe’s exports go to or through South Africa.
Ncube said that it was necessary to duplicate the successes of the Chirundu Border Posts which saw transit time being reduced to two hours from three days.