Trucks parked at Lebombo border

Cross-border Trucking Remains Dire

Long, snaking lines of trucks are a familiar sight at Southern African border posts.

From non-standard procedures and processes between countries to a lack of information sharing, non-harmonisation and old-fashioned manual processes, the situation remains dire.

The lack of standard procedures, in particular, often results in chaos. 

At Chirundu, for instance, there is a fast-track lane on the Zambian side but not on the Zimbabwean side. 

While you can have trucks clearing on the Zambian side within an hour, it takes up to 15 hours in Zimbabwe, negating the whole process. 

Ideally, you would want to fast-track trucks on both sides.

Communication between country authorities is erratic. Many also opt to use paper systems rather than electronic solutions.

Infrastructure is another challenge we have as it is entirely inadequate for the traffic volumes. It is badly outdated and archaic in design. 

Truck-weighing processes are cumbersome and slow, while corruption is rife.

Excessive charges worsen the situation and are slowly killing regional trade in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Cross border permits serve no purpose and are nothing but another revenue collection tool, while there are a host of unnecessary permits, levies, taxes, and fees to be paid.

Watch: Trucks queue at the Chirundu Border Post

The Chirundu border post between Zambia and Zimbabwe is currently the only One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) in Southern Africa. 

But, it is not functioning well by all accounts because it faces the same challenges as the traditional border posts - high staff turnover, inadequate infrastructure, and poorly integrated customs systems.

To bring about any change, we need total commitment and cooperation between heads of states. 

Whether governments choose to implement OSBPs or smart borders, we need this done rapidly.

Infrastructure at border posts must also be upgraded to accommodate current and future traffic volumes.

Furthermore, there has to be a reduction in the number of weigh-bridge stations and police checkpoints along the transport corridors. Cross-border permits need scrapping.

The introduction of a yellow card or alternative insurance system recognised by all members and purchased in the country of origin would also improve the situation.

Just as important is introducing one cross-border charge or fee applicable in all member states.