The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat officially inaugurated the Regional Customs to Business Forum (RCBF) in Johannesburg, South Africa, on January 19th, 2024, marking a significant step towards fostering trade partnerships and addressing challenges in the cross-border supply chain.
The RCBF, described as a vital vehicle for the SADC region, aims to promote mutual trust and inclusive private sector participation in policy formulation and application.
The forum also seeks to implement innovative trade facilitation measures and collectively address the growing challenges in managing cross-border supply chains.
Addressing the launch, Mr. Rakokoana Makoa, Commissioner Client Services of the Revenue Services Lesotho, stressed the importance of providing a conducive and constructive dialogue platform between the private sector and customs.
He highlighted that the RCBF’s role is to address issues from the private sector through the SADC Business Council, fostering collaboration with the Sub-Committee on Customs Cooperation (SCCC) for policy shifts.
The primary objective of the RCBF is to advocate for Customs to Business (C2B) policies that expedite the implementation of regional trade agreements and trade facilitation initiatives.
The Forum aims to inform, advise, and discuss options for addressing impediments to the flow of goods across borders in the SADC Region.
Mr. Alcides Monteiro, Senior Programme Officer – Customs at SADC Secretariat, explained that the RCBF’s rationale is to promote smooth cross-border trade, encouraging private sector participation in export-oriented value chains and facilitating the implementation of trade agreements, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Under the theme “Promoting Inclusiveness, Dialogue and Collaboration,” the RCBF launch drew representatives from 14 SADC Member States and the regional business community.
Mr. Peter Varndell, Executive Secretary of the SADC Business Council, expressed optimism that the RCBF would accelerate economic integration and shared prosperity by eliminating non-tariff barriers, simplifying trade procedures, and creating a conducive environment for intra-regional trade and investment.
The private sector within the SADC Region called for enhanced engagement with stakeholders and improved communication before implementing national and regional policy deviations.
They urged the SADC Secretariat to expedite the harmonization of systems in transportation and the clearance of goods between borders.
The European Union-SADC Trade Facilitation Programme supported the establishment and launch of the SADC-RCBF, including the development of a five-year high-level strategy and work-plan adopted during the launch.