By Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko
One of the biggest concerns for most travellers passing through our borders is the process of declaring goods and the paperwork that comes with it. For many, it is an unnecessary waste of time and resources but they still need to undergo it for compliance.
To save you the headache of what can sometimes be a lengthy process, Smart Borders International has made life simpler. Based at the new complex at the Oshoek-Ngwenya Border Post, the company gives individuals and businesses a seamless experience at the border. Company Director Emmanuel Maziya says their customers come from all walks of life and need to be assisted with different types of paperwork.
“I see no reason why people should pay penalties for something they can avoid. People need to learn to do things the correct way so I am their go-to person. No institution provides customs training in Eswatini, which is why there is such a huge gap and that is where I come in. I serve as the middleman due to my experience. I do not want people to pay if they do not have to so I try to simplify their lives as much as I can,” he says.
Maziya has vast experience in the field of customs, having worked for Eswatini Revenue Services (ERS) for many years before starting his business.
Q – When was your business established?
A – It was established in 2021 at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic
Q – Why did you decide to start this type of business – what were you responding to?
A – I realised that a lot of people at the border find things tough when they have to declare goods so I decided to make life easy for clients. I also noticed that not many people get the kind of assistance they should and often take a gamble. I wanted to make things seamless for members of the public. I saw an opportunity because of my background and experiences as a customs official.
Q – What was your first objective when you founded your business?
A – To ensure quality service for business people and clearing agents. For many people, anything to do with border services seems like a nightmare when it should not. I saw a gap and took advantage of it
Q – Is this a full-time business for you or a side hustle?
A – This has been a full-time job for me since 2022. Doing this as a part-time job is not practical as it requires time and attention to detail
Q – How many people work for you?
A – The office currently has 5 full-time staff members but we are looking to expand in the short term so that we can be available at all border posts.
Q – What methods do you use to promote your business?
A -We use mainly social media platforms such as Facebook and business platforms like LinkedIn. We hope to grow our footprint in the near future.
Q – How did you choose the name for your business?
A – The name Smart Borders International stems from the fact that we want to be innovative and look at doing things in a smart way that attracts different types of clients without any hassles. We are striving for a paperless system that makes life easy for all parties. We strive for technological advancement. We are a local company with a global outlook.
Q – How would you characterise the working culture at Smart Borders International?
A – We deliver services professionally and ensure that our clients are kept happy and keep coming back. We will be providing a lot of support to our employees to make sure they are constantly trained to make sure that they deliver quality service.
Q – What makes you different from others in your industry? What product range do you have?
A – We come with a competitive advantage due to our experience and background so we have the technical expertise to give our clients a seamless experience. We advise on something we know very well. We offer professional advice and proper solutions. We do not do guesswork.
Q – How did you manage to survive the challenges brought on by the Covid 19 pandemic?
A – We started the business at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic. It was tough but we survived. I had to use my savings to start the business. The lockdown made it difficult to move goods as we were accustomed to. We survived and learned a lot during the process.
Q – Is your business committed to giving back to the community? How?
A – Yes, this is part of our long-term goals. Once we are financially stable, we would like to be involved in absorbing graduates since the level of unemployment is high. We would like to bring in people on board and hire them on a part-time basis and later full-time – sponsor a graduate.
Q – How many hours a day do you spend working on your business?
A – I am in it 24 hours a day although practically it could be 16 hours since I also need to rest. Our office at the border operates from 7 a.m. to 12 midnight but we are looking at being a 24-hour operation, just like the border.
Q – How would you characterise your business’s success thus far?
A – It has been promising – light at the end of the tunnel – starting to gain traction – more problems than we initially thought but nothing that can’t be solved.
Q – What can your loyal customers look forward to in the future?
A – We want to continue using technology to be more effective so they can look forward to improved service delivery and more professionalism as we grow our brand. The market is full of technologies that can come in handy for a smart customs clearance process. We seek to fully automate the entire border-clearing process.