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Eswatini and South Africa launch end-to-end Time Release Study (TRS) reports

Following WCO capacity-building and technical assistance, the reports of the end-to-end Time Release Study (TRS) of the Oshoek-Ngwenya land border were jointly published by Eswatini and South Africa on 20 May 2024. The support took place under the WCO Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme, as funded by the United Kingdom’s His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), as part of the Programme’s multi-year partnerships with Eswatini Revenue Service (ERS) and South African Revenue Service (SARS) for effective implementation of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The coordination between Eswatini and South Africa underscores the importance of the Oshoek-Ngwenya border as the busiest land border post between the two countries and as a gateway for trade flows within the Southern African Customs Union and transit cargo routes to the port of Durban. The Oshoek-Ngwenya border, the largest SACU border post, handles over 50% of Eswatini's cross-border trade and 8% of South Africa's land border cargo. An extensive line of waiting trucks at the border was the direct trigger for the joint TRS between the two countries. Given its high trade volume, any improvements here would have a substantial impact on the overall efficiency of trade within the region.

The ERS Commissioner General, Mr. Brightwell Nkambule, celebrated the actionable insights highlighted by the TRS report to enhance clearance process efficiencies and deliver substantial benefits to traders. The SARS Commissioner, Mr. Edward Kieswetter, recognized the TRS as a demonstration of what can be achieved when there is sufficient goodwill between partners. He said: “It is now my wish that we can scale this up as an important intervention for the benefit of all our SACU partners.”

A broad base of stakeholders attended the launch, including representatives of the TRS Technical Working Groups, the Eswatini National Trade Facilitation Committee, and the private sector.

The WCO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Trevino Chapa, underlined in his video message that the TRS is to be not a one-time exercise but is ideally to be conducted at regular intervals and across various border posts as a data-driven diagnostic and a performance measurement tool. He noted that the countries can  conduct future TRS with the capacity built of their established Technical Working Groups. In this light, he also appreciated the support from national TRS specialists from Namibia and Zambia in the spirit of peer-to-peer exchange and learning under the Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme.

The reports’ key recommendations related, for instance, to the feasibility of a One-Stop Border Post and enhancing pre-clearance. During the occasion, Mr Beyers Theron, SARS Director of Customs Border Operations, announced an envisioned No-Stop Border Post for compliant traders. Furthermore, Maj. General David Chilembe of South Africa’s Border Management Authority hailed the TRS launch as a Call to Action and stated, “It demonstrated our commitment to transparency, efficiency and international best practices.”

The British High Commissioner to the Kingdom of Eswatini, Mr. Simon Boyden, expressed his gratitude: “We would like to thank all members of the TRS technical working group for their commitment to the project and congratulate you all upon the launch of the report. We hope the report will serve as a useful step in identifying areas for improvement in trade facilitation for both Eswatini and South Africa and will be a significant step in promoting innovative reforms and ultimately higher volumes of trade.”  

The WCO looks forward to its continued partnerships with ERS and SARS under the Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme for sustainable development and economic growth through an enhanced business-enabling environment.

For more information on the Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme, please see here.

For more information on WCO capacity building, please contact Capacity.Building@wcoomd.org.

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