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Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Topics publications: Trade Facilitation and Customs

Trade Briefs

Extended border delays a common experience at Kasumbalesa: What are the real issues and can we expect improvements?

In 2017, neighbouring countries the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia signed a bilateral trade agreement, paving the way for the formation of a joint border post committee tasked with the establishment of a One-Stop-Border-Post (OSBP) at Kasumbalesa. An OSBP is a port of entry in which two neighbouring governments voluntarily agree on a decision to co-locate their port of entry operations at a common end-to-end land border crossing. It is at this border in Africa where five main ports dovetail: one from East Africa (Port of Mombasa), and four from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)  (Walvis Bay, Beira, Dar es Salaam and Durban). Kasumbalesa.

This Trade Brief discusses some of the main obstacles that have become perennially synonymous with the extended border delays at Kasumbalesa – one of the major and busiest OSBPs in Africa –  and the trade facilitation challenges  confronted daily by transporters, commercial goods, traders and people. Despite all of these, which are conspicuous and inherent at Kasumbalesa, users of this OSBP need to remain optimistic about the future.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

Are the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Transport and Trade Facilitation Programme and the Corridor Trips Monitoring System gaining traction?

On 22 October 2008, at the Tripartite Summit, Heads of State and Government of the member states of COMESA, EAC and SADC agreed to establish the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). The TFTA strives to improve the economic and social welfare of the citizens of the Member States through the advancement of regional economic growth by creating an enabling environment for intra-TFTA trade. The achievement of this objective is premised on the three main pillars of the TFTA: market integration, infrastructure development, and industrial development. The pillar on infrastructure development seeks to promote interconnected, integrated, and seamless infrastructure networks that facilitate enhanced movement of goods, services, knowledge and people.

This Trade Brief looks at the SADC-COMESA-EAC regional and trade facilitation progress and developments under the TFTA’s Tripartite Transport and Transit/ Trade Facilitation Programme (TTTFP). This is extended to equally cover the TTTFP’s complementary trade facilitation flagship programme in the making – the Corridor Trips Monitoring System (CTMS).


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

The Harmonized System: What do users and traders need to know?

The Harmonized System Nomenclature (HS Nomenclature) is an international standardized numerical Customs clearance facility. It is used in the systematic classification of goods and services as they move along the international supply chain. The HS Nomenclature caters for this by providing a logical structure in which more than 5000 commodity groups are categorized into more than 1200 headings covered under a total of 96 Chapters. In turn, these Chapters are divided into 21 Sections. The System simplifies classification and clearance by assigning standardized number codes to all the tradable products. Assignment of HS Codes to these tradable goods facilitates their identification for Customs clearance purposes when internationally traded.

This Trade Brief discusses the functions and attributes of the HS Nomenclature, highlighting the worldwide importance to traders through the roles of Customs administrations, as well as providing an update on the uptake and implementation of the Harmonized System in Africa.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

Africa and the adoption of HS2022: Implementation update, impact and consequences in the context of AfCFTA

The new edition of the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System 2022 (HS2022) entered into force on the 1st of January 2022. This development means that Customs tariffs, associated Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) management systems – such as the Automated Systems for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) – as well as accompanying Harmonised System (HS) tools and instruments must have been successfully migrated from the previous edition (HS2017) to the new version (HS2022).

A few weeks prior to entry into force of HS2022, African countries’ experiences in this regard still indicated widely ranging inconsistencies and discrepancies in the application of the HS in general. Whilst all the Contracting Parties were expected to have fully migrated to the HS2017 by then, apparently some had not yet done so. The majority of those were still either using HS2012 or even HS2007, whilst some had huge delays in rolling out HS2017. Only 30 African countries had successfully migrated to HS2017 and were already applying it. At the launch of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger held on the 7th of July 2019, HS2017 was already in its third year. At that time, half of the African Union Member States were still to ratify the AfCFTA.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

Customs cooperation in facilitating intra-African trade

The Evolving Role of Customs Administrations – from Goalkeeper to Trade Facilitator

Customs administrations play a pivotal role in the advancement of international trade. The efficiency and effectiveness of customs procedures can significantly influence the economic competitiveness of nations. Customs’ roles and responsibilities have evolved over time and now their main responsibility is to facilitate legitimate trade by allowing it to pass through borders as quickly and smoothly as possible while implementing border management and enforcing controls.

The transition from the traditional objective of revenue collection and enforcement of mainly protective controls to the modern trade facilitation agenda and trade policy reform requires a paradigm shift. Customs administrations around the world constantly encounter challenges to enhance their processes in order to make them more robust and transparent, thereby striking a balance between facilitating trade and the enforcement of effective border controls.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

Trade facilitation in Africa: Solutions and recommendations

Low intra-Africa and regional trade have historically been attributed to tariffs. However, recent evidence shows that non-tariff issues are the main reason for low intra-Africa and regional trade. Intra-Africa trade could significantly increase if governments prioritised addressing trade facilitation challenges and implement trade facilitation measures espoused in the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) or elsewhere (e.g. national, regional and multilateral instruments). Addressing trade facilitation challenges requires several actions by governments and customs and border agencies. Actions ranging from effective implementation of existing legal frameworks, amendment of existing legislation and regulation to improving the efficiency of procedural or operational issues at the border posts and ports.

Trade facilitation challenges have been examined elsewhere and there is general agreement that they are the major obstacles to intra-Africa and regional trade. This Trade Brief provides recommendations to governments for implementing measures that will facilitate transparency, increase compliance and simplification of cross-border trade procedures and reduce time and costs of doing business across borders. Recently, African governments have adopted an array of temporary measures to facilitate trade in essential food and health supplies during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This Trade Brief commends such measures and provides practical recommendations that can support governments’ efforts to expedite trade during the pandemic and beyond. In certain instances, the present Trade Brief recommends the extension of the temporary measures to facilitate the trade of essential food and medical products adopted during the pandemic. We recommend their integration into existing or new legal frameworks for trade facilitation.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on intra-Africa transit traffic through South Africa

From the end of 2019, as the Covid-19 virus began to spread, countries have implemented various mitigating measures. These vary across countries and include short-term shutting-down of most domestic economic activities, border closures, and testing certification procedures for cross-border transporters.

These restrictions have a significant and often negative impact on the transportation of goods and logistics. South Africa is a transit hub for the transportation of goods between African countries and also between African countries and those further afield. Covid-19 restrictions affect the transportation of goods to South Africa and transit traffic through South Africa. Border closures and delays, changes in demand and supply, and logistics problems such as container shortages and changes in shipping routes require that producers, importers, transporters, and logistic service providers rethink some trade routes.

This Trade Brief examines the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on intra-Africa transit traffic. In particular, the focus is on goods in transit through South Africa. How have Covid-19 restrictions affected the flow of transit traffic through South Africa?


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

The institutional architecture for implementation of the trade facilitation agenda under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement

The Protocols to the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) establish various technical committees to assist with the implementation of the Agreement. When fully and effectively implemented, the Agreement is expected to enhance the prospects of boosting growth, reduce poverty and broaden economic inclusion among the African countries as their tendency to trade with one another increases. Of the fifty-four (54) Member States which have signed the Agreement, thirty-seven (37) had deposited their instruments of ratification as of June 2021, becoming State Parties to the AfCFTA.

This trade brief presents information on Trade Facilitation under the AfCFTA’s Protocol on Trade in Goods. It also focuses on the institutional arrangements (sub-committees) for its implementation. It concludes by briefly examining the contextual and institutional relationship between Trade Facilitation at the continental level under the AfCFTA and the multilateral level under the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

Enhancing Corridor Institutional Arrangements for Improved Cross-Border Transport and Trade Facilitation

In Africa, cross-border road transport carries over 80% of intra-regional and inter-regional trade. It provides a critical link between landlocked countries and international markets, and plays an important role for regional connectivity. Improving regional connectivity is becoming increasingly important to promoting intra-regional trade and intra-Africa trade, and this requires an efficient transport system which enables faster travel, facilitates movement and achieves the goal of smooth movement of goods.

In most cases, road transport is the only mode of transport available connecting inland economic hubs in different countries, thus enabling landlocked countries to participate in the global economic system. Whilst some regional corridors are multimodal (such as the Central corridor), providing both road and rail, others provide both modes only for a section of the corridor (like the Trans-Kalahari corridor). Corridor institutional arrangements have a huge bearing on the performance of corridors, the efficiency of operations and speed at which corridor bottlenecks are addressed. It is therefore important to keep these in check to continuously improve the arrangements with a view to enhance their effectiveness and impact on trade facilitation. This is important towards enhancing the realisation of the objectives of key regional and continental initiatives such as the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Working Papers

Services Trade Restrictiveness and Services Trade: Making Sense of Inter-Decade Movements

This paper investigates movements in services trade restrictions and their impacts on services trade over an eight-year period (2008-2016). It utilises the latest, most globally inclusive inter-temporal data set available, to draw conclusions about the impacts of shifts in services trade restrictions on the value of trade in services. The dataset covers developed and developing countries, and includes five leading African economies. Both informal and formal quantitative methods are used to draw out insights, the most striking of which is the contrast in the results between developed and developing countries.

For all countries, the aggregate level of services trade restrictions has tended downward (liberalisation), but this shift was only associated with boosts to services trade (both imports and exports) among developing countries (including Africa). Developed countries, which are presumably closer to the limits of services sector development, did not experience noticeable boosts to services trade values as a result of on-going liberalisation.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

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