By Bahle Gama
The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) says the business community will benefit greatly from the government’s move to re-open the six entry points between the country and South Africa. Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Nhlanhla Nxumalo announced that the six entry points namely Sicunusa, Gege, Bulembu, Sandlane, Nsalitje, and Lundzi would be opened following their closure for a period of over a year, on January 1, 2021.
The borders were closed as part of the precautionary measures that were put in place at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic. The re-opening of the borders came with effect on August 1 where all cross-border travelers were expected to produce their requisite travel documents at the borders including their valid vaccination certificates if fully vaccinated.
In an interview, EIPA Head of Trade Bongani Ntshangase said the opening of ports of entry allowed for ease of movement of goods and services between countries, adding that Eswatini and South Africa shared significant trade as both countries had goods that moved between the two on a regular basis.
“Eswatini imports about E22.3 billion worth of goods from South Africa and exports about E20.5 billion worth of goods to the neighboring country. Our ports of entry are very important and the opening of such is a strategic move in strengthening our economy, with regards to exports and imports. If businesses can easily move these goods after getting the necessary documentation in place, it stands to benefit both countries economically and from a business perspective,” he said.
He continued that the flow of goods would also be increased even though some of the ports of entry were not commercial border posts, but sizeable amounts of goods and consumers could move through.
“Eswatini’s main ports of entry are the busiest, however, we cannot ignore how border access benefits smaller towns and cities through consumer movements in areas where ports of entry are close by to support their businesses. The local economy benefits that can be counted in this regard are endless,” he said.
This, according to Ntshangase also improves Eswatini’s ease of doing business, especially trading across borders by reducing travelling time and associated costs, for those who will derive value from using alternative ports of entry for their goods and services due to logistical requirements.
In response to how the closure of these ports affected the business community in Eswatini, Ntshangase said businesses were greatly affected, however, such should not be considered separately from the overall impact of the pandemic as it was directly linked to it.
“It is quite understandable that the government had to make the decision to close these ports of entry to assist with controlling movement during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was a decision that was aimed at managing a health crisis whose impact was felt the world over,” he said.
He added that alternatives were available as some borders were operational, however, it increased operational costs due to longer routes.
“Where costs outweighed returns then the business was left with no alternatives except to forego that trade. The eased measures mean there is now added convenience which will see more traders having access to goods and services brought closer to them, making them more readily available in the surrounding communities,” he said.