DELAYS in clearing imported goods in SA and other Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries were causing an inflated price "frenzy", logistics company Deutsche Post's DHL Express MD for Central Africa and Indian Ocean, Henni Heymans, said yesterday.

"The longer you have capital tied up in your stock, the higher the cost of money is, therefore the selling price becomes a kind of self-feeding frenzy," he said at a Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) Africa Export Import Forum held in Midrand, Johannesburg, yesterday.

International companies cite the lack of efficiency in customs procedures as the main driver of prices of imported goods in Sadc countries. Mr Heymans said it would be cost-and time-effective if imported goods were cleared at one point in one Sadc country for the entire region.

"If we can just think about the incredible advantages we could have if we could clear those goods upon entry into SA at one of the ports or one of the airports, like OR Tambo or the harbour in Durban.

"If we can clear those goods as a once-off for the entire Sadc, it's the end of the paperwork, it's the end of the admin burden ."

Mr Heymans said it would also help matters if an electronic data interchange with all customs authorities across Africa was established.

"It would mean we would have the ability to start clearing the goods the moment they left Germany or the Americas, so by the time they touched down in the country of destination, the clearing process was done and dusted," he said.

He said a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week policy implemented at all border posts would add to the efficiency of custom procedures. That efficiency would make goods cheaper. "The moment it gets cheaper for the consumer, the market will start growing," he said. Asian countries had operated border posts "24/7" for years and had increased their intra-Asian country trade tremendously.

Earlier this year, Valentine Rugwabiza, deputy director-general at the World Trade Organisation, said there was a concern that intra-African trade was far too quiet. She said Africa remained the most economically fragmented continent, with intra-African trade accounting for only about 10% of its overall trade last year.

With Alistair Anderson

downingr@bdfm.co.za