New Trade Portal Makes Import, Export Easier, Cheaper in Botswana

The Kazungula Ferry carries goods on the Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It is one of the largest ferries in south-central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

With the launch of a new trade portal, the Botswana government is lowering trade costs, decreasing time to do business and easing customs cooperation when moving goods and services in and out the country. With the support of the World Bank, the portal is also expected to contribute towards increased trade and investment.

The main objective of the Botswana Trade Portal is to make it easier for traders and investors to comply with regulatory requirements associated with the importation and exportation of goods as well as in helping Botswana comply with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Bali Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

“The establishment of this trade portal forms a key part of the World Bank Group’s new Country Partnership Framework for Botswana to help generate export-led diversified growth and employment, as well as the promotion of private sector-led jobs intensive growth,” said Guang Zhe Chen, World Bank country director for Botswana.

The trade portal is a web-based database system, which makes all cross-border trade regulatory information  available at a stroke of a key.The information includes all laws, prohibitions, restrictions, technical standards, the entire commodity classification and tariffs, all procedures for license and permit application and clearance, copies of all forms as well as plain language instructions.

The trade portal also enables traders to see, in response to a single query, all the obligations they need to comply with to import or export a specific good. It was developed in response to a request by the Government of Botswana through its trade agency, the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC).

“With all this information readily available and clear instructions and flow-charts on how to export or import, traders should find it quicker and easier to be compliant and discharge all their formalities with fewer time consuming interactions,” said Vincent Seretse, Botswana Minister for Trade and Industry. Seretse added that the trade portal would boost Botswana’s efforts to become a globally competitive player in the overall share of trade in the world.

Financed through a $600k grant, the Botswana Trade Portal is supported through the World Bank Group (WBG) Trade Facilitation Support Program. The WBG’s global facility helps countries implement their international commitments on trade facilitation, specifically following the new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. After Mauritius, Botswana was the first mainland country in Africa to ratify this agreement, which states that every member of the WTO has an obligation to publish on the internet all trade related information promptly and transparently.

The WBG’s Trade Facilitation Support Program also helps countries to implement reforms aimed at increasing trade, investments, and job creation. This support was matched by the technical efforts of the BITC, under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Letsebe Sejoe, as well as the multiple of Botswana government trade-related agencies who played a critical part in the development of the portal.

“Making all of Botswana’s regulatory requirements for importing and exporting available to the private sector in an easily accessible, transparent and searchable format, is a key step forwards towards a simpler, faster and lower-cost investment climate,” said Richard Record,  World Bank senior economist.

The Botswana Trade Portal is one part of the WBG’s efforts to help promote private sector-led, jobs-intensive growth in Botswana. The larger partnership between the government and the WBG reaches across a range of sectors, including social protection, health, education, water, transport and natural resource management.

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