SA needs an efficient system to manage the movement of people and goods across its borders, while at the same time promoting tourism and managing security and economic threats, said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

He spoke at the launch of the new Port of Entry Control Centre in Cape Town harbour on Friday.

“As a vigilant state, this is our response to the threats and opportunities facing our country in a maritime context,” said Gordhan.

Examples of challenges he mentioned include “the global phenomena of counterfeit and illicit goods, undocumented foreign nationals entering the country, smugglers and contraband”.

“Ultimately, it is the ‘customer experience’ that matters most. Those who have bona fide business and other interests in entering or bringing goods into SA or leaving or exporting goods from SA, should receive efficient and courteous service,” said Gordhan.

“Those whose motives will harm our economy or people will be dealt with by the full might of the law.”

According to Gordhan the value proposition SA offers is a strongly growing tourism industry, a growing and sophisticated economy and an unmatched business infrastructure on the African continent.

“While excellent preparations are afoot for changes to the air and land ports of entry, we realised that the maritime environment posed its own unique challenges, threats and opportunities,” he said.

Gordhan said that during his State of the Nation Address in 2009, President Jacob Zuma re-iterated South Africa’s commitment to improve border management.

“In particular, fast-growing African economies represent strong growth opportunities and new markets for South African goods,” said Gordhan.

“The National Development Plan targets an increase in intra-regional trade in Southern Africa from 7% to 25% of trade by 2030 and that South Africa’s trade with regional neighbours should increase from 15% of total trade to 30%.”

He said to achieve these targets, South Africa will, among other measures, have to reduce delays and increase facilitation and risk management at border posts.

SA would also have to forge better strategic trade partnerships with its peers on the continent.

This must include plans to harmonise customs and immigration, according to Gordhan.

Control centre

The inter-departmental Port of Entry Control Centre in Cape Town harbour, commonly referred to as Cowrie Place, is the first maritime facility in South Africa where all relevant government services related to the movement of people and goods and are rendered from the same building, in a coordinated fashion.

According to the NDP about 90% of South Africa’s trade volume is seaborne. This is about 80% by value.

SA, therefore, depends on the efficiency of its seven commercial ports, which handle an estimated 200 million tonnes of freight a year.

This is equivalent to about 3.5% of world sea trade volumes, placing South Africa among the top 15 international maritime trading nations.

“We thank the Transnet National Ports Authority for their cooperation and making the building available to us,” Gordhan said about the new centre.

“We believe this facility will enable the Port of Cape Town to grow and function more efficiently as an important asset of our country’s economic infrastructure.”