Border delays stymie African trade

1st July 2005 By: elizabeth rebelo

Due to cross-border delays, transport costs in Africa are about four times higher than in the European Union, making Africa less globally competitive.

Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (CBRTA) chairperson Barney Curtis says that delays at Southern African border posts are costing the regional economy about $48-million a year.

The CBRTA regulates, in conjunction with partner countries, the flow of cross-border goods and passengers.

Its key objective is to streamline cross-border road-transport regu-lation and law enforcement.

The lack of harmonisation in Africa, especially with regard to axle and vehicle-load limits, is one of the egregious problems causing cross-border delays.

For example, in Botswana the vehicle-load limit is 8,2 t, while in other Southern African Develop- ment Community (SADC) coun-tries it is nine tons, explains Curtis.

With regard to vehicle dimensions, the maximum length in Mozambique is 18,5 m, but in other SADC countries it is 22 m.

A further issue is the disparity between cross-border road-user charges.

While some countries have implemented the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) system of $10/100 km, others have not, says Curtis.

South Africa, for example, has not implemented this system at all, as toll-roads are more pervasive.

However, there are numerous initiatives that are being rolled out to deal with these challenges, says Curtis.

The development of corridors, such as Beira and Maputo, is one such example.

In fact, the World Bank’s Sub-Saharan African Transport Policy Programme (SSATP) focuses on the five transport corridors of the TransKalahari, Dar es Salaam, Beira, Maputo and North–South routes.

Its ultimate goal is to reduce poverty and achieve more-efficient transport, reports Curtis.

Efficient transport is of stra-tegic and economic importance, as it stimulates the development of the national economy by transporting goods at lower costs, which, in turn, contributes directly towards containing and lowering total production costs.

The SSATP’s work plan for this year involves gathering information on major corridors to facilitate the implementation of initiatives.

The programme will also investi- gate issues pertaining to trip times, delays at borders and the loads carried.