King calls for seamless borders to move goods in SACU
By Bahle Gama
His Majesty King Mswati III says the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) member states should work towards seamless borders through which where goods move from one country to another.
This he said will curb delays at entry points. His Majesty was speaking during the official opening of the 8th SACU Head of State official opening which he officiated.
The King stated that the SACU program has assisted in fast-tracking controls and reduction in administration costs for customs clearance and “we anticipate seeing fewer delays in shipments, reduced theft and losses of goods and other things.”
His Majesty further stated that the country was pleased with such developments and extended appreciation to those who were responsible for carrying out the new architecture of declaring goods at the point of entry.
“This has come at an opportune time when the continent is working towards trading under one umbrella of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA). The positive implementation of this initiative to make it more effective needs programs that can be as successful as SACU,” His Majesty said.
He elaborated further that there was the realization that the vehicles of trade such as SACU were not built in one day, but trust that they will be developed gradually, leading to a day when all can say Africa is now trading effectively.
“We also need to bring forth and share other success stories under SACU to motivate best practices that can be adopted by the AFCFTA, to boost intra-Africa trade. The SACU success story follows in the footsteps of other positive economic developments in Eswatini, which has been recognized by the world bank as one of the top five growing economies with our GDP growth at 7.43 per cent in 2021,” he said.
He stated that SACU has been seen growing from strength to strength, moving in the right direction and members should nature this child of theirs, and where there are challenges, “we need to sit down and find an amicable solution.”
“This is particularly important at this time as SACU works on the implementation of its recently approved strategic plan 2022 – 2027, in the midst of the recent global developments which are having a significant impact on our economies,” he said.
His Majesty mentioned that in the last summit, it was reflected how the Covid-19 pandemic had drastically changed lives and the Russia-Ukraine conflict had begun and states were at that stage experiencing the impact on economies.
“We remain optimistic that an amicable settlement will be reached given the negative impact and spill-over effects, which continue to constrain the global economic growth prospects and threaten food security,” His Majesty said.
…Encourage regional values across sectors
His Majesty King Mswati III is urging SACU member states to encourage regional value chains across various sectors. These include vehicle manufacturing, where the production of different components can be
distributed across several member countries and assembled in one.
“This will add impetus to our regional goal of integration while enhancing our trade output and growing the SACU pool. Let us use the current momentum to develop SACU and ensure that the pool grows for the benefit of our economies for future generations. As member countries, we all need to play our part for a sustainable future of our institution,” he said.
His Majesty extended appreciation towards the support and cooperation that has been rendered to the country during its terms as Chair of the institutions of SACU.
“We will equally continue supporting all its planned initiatives after our term ends. We congratulate the executive secretary for assuming his new position and we are confident that he will steer our organization to greater heights,” he added.
SACU must contribute to increasing African trade-Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged member states of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) to contribute to substantially increasing African Trade in goods and services.
President Ramaphosa was making his remarks during the official opening of the 8th SACU Heads of State Summit that was held at Mandvulo Hall at Lozitha Royal Palace on Thursday morning.
“We must work to deepen regional integration in the Customs Union and deliberately forge stronger ties among the five Member States,” he said.
Ramaphosa stated that South Africa believed that spatial development initiatives, industrialisation, exports and investment promotion and regional manufacturing linkages would enable the member states to diversify their economies.
“It will also enable us to take advantage of opportunities opened up by the African Continental Free Trade Area. For this to happen, we should prioritise economic infrastructure, especially scaling up renewable energy capacity, roads and railways, ports and airports, telecommunications and water infrastructure,” he said.
He further stated that there was a need to discuss what can be done to diversify economies and increase intra-Africa trade and deepen integration, as states are well-positioned to use their collective revenues to support industrial capacity and infrastructure development within the Union.
“We cannot be content that Africa’s share in global trade is a mere 3 per cent. This Customs Union should contribute to substantially increasing African trade in goods and services. We will achieve this if we have articulated programmes, sufficient resources, a robust governance framework and a commitment to execute the Strategic Plan,” Ramaphosa said.
He emphasized that SACU needed to continue serving as an important instrument for deepening African economic integration as “we strive to develop our economies, advance mutual prosperity and leave no one behind.”
The President further noted how economies were weakened by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and geopolitical contestation just when they were recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As the UN Conference on Trade and Development noted earlier this year, food and energy crises, surging inflation, debt tightening, and the climate emergency are all contributing to one of the lowest rates of global economic growth in decades. As the Southern African Customs Union, we must fulfil our mandate if we are to withstand these global shocks and mitigate their impact on our respective countries,” he continued.
He further noted that SAVU is the oldest Customs Union and the agreement has undergone several changes and improvements over the years to better reflect the prevailing political and economic environment.
“We have always been deliberate about using this Union as a vehicle for advancing and deepening integration. We are working to achieve this integration through cooperation in trade and industrial policies. We seek to build cross-border value chains among all SACU Member States, underpinned by regional infrastructure programmes,” Ramaphosa said.
The question he asked, was to what extent have they succeeded in this regard, and is SACU still fit for purpose and able to respond effectively to the needs of member states?
“The geopolitical and economic shifts taking place across the world necessitate that we must be quite intentional about what we hope to achieve as SACU. We must be quite deliberate when it comes to playing a developmental role in the region, on the continent, and globally,” he said.
He further disclosed that at the recent Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris, Africa spoke with one voice about the need for industrialised countries to meet their commitments to developing economies.
And nearly all countries present agreed on the need for the reform of multilateral development and financial institutions.
“Ultimately, we strive for a world order that accommodates developing economy countries by having rules in respect of access to capital, sovereignty, and the right to develop our industries. The SACU Strategic Plan adopted in June 2022 is the foundational document that executes the aspirations of SACU,” concluded Ramaphosa.