The tides of legitimate trade facilitation continue to turn progressively, as SA Inc moves steadily, toward the realisation of a seamless, safe, secure, and compliant supply chain. As citizens of SA Inc, we must commend the South African Revenue Services (Sars), under the leadership of Commissioner Edward Kieswetter and his extended customs and tax leadership team, on the exemplary, record-breaking, R2-trillion mark, preliminary revenue collection results for the 2023/2024 financial year. These revenue collection results, announced on April 3, are a composite of several revenue segments, inter alia, customs and excise revenue, specific to the activities of international trade and local manufacturing respectively. The results achieved are consequent to several initiatives, of which the multiple initiatives of customs modernisation are key contributors.
South Africa is currently sitting at a measured 90.3%, in respect of the World Trade Organization, Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO-TFA) trade facilitation index commitments, benchmarked against key category areas and several sub-aspects thereof.
As cargo owners and extended role players in the supply chain, we can attest to the benefits of this measured indicator, as we receive expedited customs responses in a matter of minutes, through the Sars electronic data interchange inter-front platform, upon submission of a customs declaration to Sars. While we celebrate where we are, we do realise that there are still commitments (9.7%) to be met to take us to 100%, including notified article 10.4.3, the operation of the single window.
Sars remains committed to achieving the objective of Vision 2024: a smart, modern Sars, with unquestionable integrity that is trusted and admired, is of paramount importance. Pivotal to the delivery of Sars’ vision is its digital platforms and technology infrastructure. To provide clarity and certainty, make it easy for taxpayers and traders to comply with their obligations, and to build public trust and confidence, our technology assets must demonstrate the highest levels of availability, robustness, and security.
On April 6, Sars shared exciting developments, at an EDI technical external stakeholder session, in respect of the planned initiatives intended to modernise current Sars customs, and linked other government agency processes and procedures, with the aim of co-creating process and procedural efficiencies in the facilitation of legitimate trade. The planned developments include, but are not limited to, OGA (single window) integration with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the SADC e-Certificates of Origin (COO) EDI process, processing of customs refunds and drawbacks via EDI, and the SACU Unique Consignment Reference (UCR). On this note, Sars published an updated list of new customs response codes to facilitate the envisioned single window OGA integration process.
Our SA Association of Freight Forwarders’ CEO, Dr Juanita Maree, reminds us that the concept of single window, being a technological solution, is only one aspect in the seamless facilitation of legitimate trade; for the technology to be operationally efficient, the accompanying processes, more especially, need to be mapped appropriately, and thus, input from the extended role players in the supply chain in respect of the supply chain and business realities, remain essential to achieving a successful implementation.
It does appear that the single window is beginning to open, and as it does, it is critical that the private sector does not only participate in pilots of the process, but also in its co-creation, through the available external engagements and platforms, invariably then shaping and realising the desired outcome. It is imperative that the private sector continues to support Sars in the spirit of co-creating efficiencies in respect of modernised processes and procedures, supportive of the ease of doing business for SA Inc.
Just as Sars takes steps toward the realisation of Vision 2024, so too must we as business adopt an aligned vision and set strategic objectives, unique to each of our respective business environments, within the broader context of an evolved and agile workforce. Let us therefore adopt a system of continuous process improvement as we prepare for the impending changes that await our landscape. We cannot move progressively forward if we do not allow ourselves to look back at how far we have come. I aptly pen off with this quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” Let us therefore, as a collective, through our individual capabilities, strive for continuous growth and progress for SA Inc.