Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Business Reporter
IMPORTERS and exporters who use the Forbes Border Post in Mutare must be ecstatic over the news that Government is considering implementing a One stop Border Post at the busy point of entry. Not only has Forbes been a hub of activity with hundreds of trucks coming in daily from Beira, Mozambique, an increase in traffic has been registered of late putting more strain on the border agents.
In response to this, Government is drafting a bilateral agreement proposal to work with Mozambican authorities in implementing a One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) facility at Forbes. A team from the Border Efficiency Management Systems (BEMS) committee has already visited the port of entry with officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to assess the situation at the port of entry.
And they discovered that not only does the border have inadequate infrastructure to handle the high traffic volumes efficiently, there are many bottlenecks that have seen long queues forming on the Zimbabwean side.
“Agencies stationed at the border told us that there had been an increase in the volumes of traffic passing through the border and that the infrastructure was struggling to cope,” Director for Industry and Commerce Mrs Constance Zhanje recently said.
The One Stop Border Post concept is a sure way to improve on trade facilitation between Zimbabwe and Mozambique and the whole SADC region. The general purpose of OSBP agreements between two countries is to reduce border crossing time, share logistics costs, improve cooperation and integrate risk and information management.
Although Zimbabwe’s trade volumes with SADC countries is more tilted in favour of imports, there are spirited efforts to increase production and grow the export base which will benefit immensely from the OSBP. Forbes border post is a critical point of entry or exit for goods and people between Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But before the idea can be implemented, the Zimbabwean Government needs to address a few issues as a matter of urgency.
First, there is need to quickly act on expanding the border as the current state it is in impacts negatively on the ease of doing business because more time is spent waiting for clearance. Then there is the issue of smuggling. Hundreds of bales of second hand clothing from Mozambique have been finding their way into the country through undesignated entry points. Other products being smuggled include cheap unleaded fuel, illicit alcoholic brews and soft drinks.
It is imperative that government tries to address the issue of smuggling for it to realize more revenue form the border. Because as it stands, it will only continue to lose millions of dollars as most imports get into the country for free. Because even though Zimbabwe Revenue Authority systems appear to be well coordinated at the border, the country is losing a lot of money through smuggling.
The One Stop Border Post concept is already in practice at the Chirundu One Stop Border crossing between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was launched in 2009 and has seen traffic going into Zambia being cleared on the Zambian side, while traffic getting into Zimbabwe gets cleared on the Zimbabwean side. This has had a positive impact by improving on the smooth flow of traffic at Chirundu One Stop Border Post, as well as cutting down on the costs associated with the moving of goods across the border.
If the same concept is implemented between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the country stands to benefit immensely in the medium to long term.