Nontariff barriers and trade facilitation challenges are two of the factors that prevent companies from engaging in intraregional trade.
During a panel discussion at a Team Export South Africa (Tesa) workshop, in Midrand, New Partnership for Africa's Development Business Foundation CEO Lynette Chen said the private sector had pointed out these constraints at a recent Southern African Development Community conference.
She noted that many companies indicated that they had to fill out around 640 forms just to transport goods from South Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a six-week lead-time for one shipment.
Another constraint was the movement of people across borders. “If you want to enhance business, this needs to be a lot easier.”
“There is a need for closer collaboration, understanding and commitment and willingness to partner [between the private sector and governments] to get things done,” Chen pointed out.
She further highlighted that bigger corporates needed to start sourcing locally to facilitate trade on the continent. She singled out the agricultural and agroprocessing sectors as areas where value addition could be created.
Africa House project and development FD Paul Runge added that South African exporters were "losing" in Africa not because of price, policy or delivery, but because the country's business community did not provide finance.
“We have a number of financial instruments which people in the business are blissfully ignorant of, as a result of poor marketing,” he said, adding that “lip service” from government needed to stop with funding action taking its place.
Runge also suggested that local companies needed to take on a "hunting-pack mentality" when crossing borders, holding hands to be more competitive with other players on the continent.
Also part of the panel, Transnet National Ports Authority chief economist Victor Munyama said the authority was working on reversing trade bottlenecks, pointing out that the digitalisation of ports was on track.
Department of Trade and Industry representative Seema Sardha said that while government understood the frustrations experienced by the private sector, policy was geared towards ensuring collaboration.