by John Lucas


Navigating customs key for sub-Saharan Africa


Effective supply chain management strategies are essential for the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes finding the fastest and most efficient ways for enterprises to clear their goods with customs, and cutting down customs-related risks in the region.

This can, however, be unwieldy for those not in the know, and customer success stories have shown that companies engaging in trade in sub-Saharan Africa that partner with well-networked logistics companies tend to see swifter customs clearance.

The World Bank’s 2016 Logistics Performance Index rates South Africa’s efficiency at customs clearance among the top 20 countries in the world. However, many other jurisdictions in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya (42), Botswana (57), Tanzania (61), Nigeria (90) and Ethiopia (126), are ranking much lower.

Customs is an issue in sub-Saharan Africa. Not only is this due to a lack of effective infrastructure in many places, but customs rules in some countries have been known to change quite frequently. As a result, a company’s supply chain can be significantly impacted.

In addition, businesses are also often forced to deal with tariff protection and high import duty costs in certain African countries, such as Chad (14.3%), Cameroon (14.6%) and Zimbabwe. The challenges for businesses do not stop there. Corruption, bribery, service disruptions and poor controls in general all add to the problems that businesses run into when operating across borders.

With these in mind, business should not be discouraged from taking part in cross-border trade. Whether it is intra-African trade, or importing and exporting on the global market, sub-Saharan based businesses still have tremendous potential for growth. The key is to take necessary precautions, be prepared and devise resilient supply chain management strategies.

Companies should conduct annual risk assessments within the country’s operations, including risks related to bribery and corruption. Due diligence screening of business partners, which includes the signature of the company’s supplier code of conduct, is essential.

Businesses also need to put in place systems for incident management and reporting hotlines to detect and investigate suspected violations. Strict standard operating practices are pertinent for businesses that want to process shipments quickly and efficiently and in accordance with applicable international laws and regulations.

Often overlooked in terms of improving shipment efficiency is packaging. Appropriate packaging is one of the most critical aspects in protecting the contents of the shipment. Packaging suited to the contents will drastically lower probability of pilferage or accidental damages. At the end of the day, the main aim of packaging is to protect the integrity of the shipment and its contents.

John Lucas, Country Manager of DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa

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This edition

Issue 2020