Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday unveiled a modernised customs management system that will reduce the cost of doing business with South Africa, boost the country's competitiveness and exports, and promote intra-African trade.
Briefing journalists at the SA Revenue Service's (Sars') offices in Johannesburg, Gordhan said the new system had already been implemented, and that early indications were that it had more than halved the time it takes to move goods across South Africa's borders.
The new automated customs management system centralises the clearing of all import and exports declarations using a single processing engine, replacing a multiplicity of older systems involving paper-based, manual administrative processes.
"By managing customs declarations and supporting documents in electronic format, the processing of cargo movements by land, sea and air will now be much quicker and more accurate," Gordhan said.
The new system will also curb cross-border corruption, while enabling Sars to detect false declarations automatically and so to increase its revenue.
"The new customs management system will have significant benefits for importers, exporters, clearing agents and trade facilitators, and will make our economy and commercial trade more competitive globally," Gordhan said.
The use of paper for end-to-end processing and declarations will be reduced by up to 95% as declarations are digitised. Supporting documentation will no longer be required, except in the case of a risk identification, and mobile inspections using iPads will be introduced.
Under the previous system, it took customs officials between four and eight hours to inspect goods. Now, physical inspections will take an average of two hours.
Gordhan said the new system was in line with the requirements of the National Development Plan (NDP), which stresses the importance of lowering the cost of doing business, improving exports, and linking up with other economies.
"The NDP 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 the total trade to 30%," Gordhan said.