Written by: Moeketsi Ranthake, Article No. 78 [UNCTAD Transport and Trade Facilitation Newsletter - Special edition: Trade facilitation stories through the eyes of practitioners]
We had a chat with one of our regular border users at Maseru Border post, Daniel, a Pick’n Pay truck driver and this is what he had to say:
“I like these new developments that we see around our borders. Now that they have separated pedestrians from vehicles, there is improved traffic control. One can clearly see that border agencies coordination is really effective” said Daniel with a smile and looking very impressed. These past few months we have also experienced improved service. From the entrance, there is proper traffic marshalling and guiding signs and information boards to our service points, officers now communicate with us way much better which makes our borders user friendly. I really do not know what has changed but whatever that is I like because service has transformed to levels I never anticipated. They are speedy in their inspections and release us on time, sometimes they offer to carry out those inspection at our premises, which I like so much because it saves us time and money. I am quite impressed to be honest with these changes at our borders” he said, giving us thumbs up as he left to his truck.
Previously, traffic through Maseru Border post was slow, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of the business community who suffered delays in imports and exports.
In 2019, the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) implemented the Coordinated Border Management (CBM) project, working cohesively with partaking Government border agencies and private sector representatives active on trade related issues. Knowing that effective trade translates into economic growth was an important motivation to embark on this project, as well as encouraging developments that enhance regional trade between SADC Member States, in line with the SADC Protocol on Trade.
Speedier clearance of vehicles, goods and people through border posts will also have a direct effect on foreign direct investment, says Mr. Tebello Makhechane, CBM Project Manager at the LRA. “As a result of CBM, doing business in Lesotho has become easier for South Africans and other SADC Member States that rely on the road infrastructure to move cargo. In the long-term, we expect to see positive economic strides because of increased trade. Boosting our revenues will make Lesotho more competitive both regionally and internationally.
Makhechane says that compliance is also an important factor: “Modern traders and travellers have great expectations. They want border crossings to be quick and efficient and clearing times to be instant. But at the same time, border agencies must rigorously apply the law to protect government interests and safeguard the health and safety of the country’s people – they have a national security function. In the past, striking the right balance between trade and travellers, and security, has been problematic, and an intervention was needed.”
The CBM project aims to fast-track goods processing and declaration and traveling being transported through the border posts and better control the traffic moving between Lesotho and South Africa. It is also firmly focused on improving service delivery with, at its core, finding solutions to contain the rivalry between border agencies, a situation that proved to be detrimental to regional harmony in the past, and ultimately putting up united front and serving clients coherently.
CBM is a coordinated approach by Lesotho’s border agencies, in the context of seeking greater efficiencies in managing trade and travel, while at the same time adhering to compliance requirements. Makhechane says that coordinating border agencies successfully hinges on pulling them together under a single lead, so that they can operate with a cross-functional team approach and deliver a cohesive service. This way, he says, agencies learn from and complement each other, and efforts are not duplicated.
The CBM’s approach means that agency resources are utilized more efficiently, and security and risk management have been significantly enhanced. “We now offer an improved service. Time is gained, money is saved, and the border posts are more organized and effective” concluded Tebello Makhechane.
This article was produced by the author in the framework of the UNCTAD e-Learning for Trade Facilitation program and was selected among many others because of the originality and pertinence of its content.
About the author:
Mr. Moeketsi Ranthake is a senior customs inspector at the Lesotho Revenue Authority.
He is currently working under the Customs Modernisation Programme Phase II where he serves as a Stream Lead for Trade related projects such as Coordinated Border Management (CBM) and National Single Window.