Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 38, November 2009
Chirundu one-stop border post opens for business

The Chirundu one-stop border post between Zambia and Zimbabwe will formally open for business in November in what will be a new benchmark for regional integration among SADC Member States.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) selected Chirundu a few years ago as one of the border posts for the pilot phase of the one-stop border initiative that aims to facilitate trade and free movement of goods and services among the 15-member regional bloc.

The Beitbridge border post linking South Africa and Zimbabwe is another port of entry that had been chosen by SADC for the pilot phase but work is yet to start.

Beitbridge and Chirundu are considered to be among sub-Saharan Africa’s busiest ports of entry with hundreds of southward or northward commercial trucks passing through the two border posts everyday. Beitbridge is the busier of the two.

Under the one-stop border post scheme, travellers would be cleared just once for passage into another country in contrast with the current situation where travellers have to be sanctioned on both sides of the border.

This development is hugely expected to address issues of delays, which are often experienced at most border posts as well as promote the smooth flow of goods through the removal of often perceived "restrictive" operational procedures at borders.

In the long run, the project seeks to harmonize customs and immigration laws at border posts within the SADC region.

Zimbabwean Regional Integration and International Cooperation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said challenges that were impeding the implementation process of the Chirundu one-stop border initiative have been addressed by relevant authorities.

Financial constraints and other logistical problems have been identified as some of the major stumbling blocks in making the initiative a reality.

As a result, commissioning of the border has been deferred a number of times with the latest date being moved from September to November this year.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the one-stop border concept has great capacity to ease congestion at entry points thereby reducing transit time for traders and transporters.

"This is one of the key elements which will boost trade ties with Zimbabwe in line with the Comesa Customs Union and the SADC Free Trade Area that seek to remove barriers to trade," she said.

SADC is expected to roll out the one-stop border post concept to other regional ports of entry soon, as it seeks to harmonize customs laws and promote the free movement of goods among member states in preparation of the SADC Customs Union expected in 2010 as well as to consolidate gains of the SADC FTA launched in August 2008.

Under the North-South Corridor initiative approved by Africa’s three economic communities -- SADC, Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), and the East African Community (EAC) -- infrastructure such as border posts will be refurbished to increase trade among the member states.

More than US$1.2 billion has been raised to implement the North-South Corridor project, which traverses eight countries in east and southern Africa.

Planned programmes include the construction of over 8,000 km of road, rehabilitation of 600 km of rail track and upgrading of the Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania – one of the biggest and busiest ports in Africa.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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