In a move to enhance regional trade and promote economic integration, the Mchinji-Mwami One Stop Border Post (OSBP) was launched a year ago on December 7, 2022. Situated on the border between Malawi and Zambia, the state-of-the-art facility has brought significant improvements to border processes, benefiting cross-border traders, boosting economic activities, strengthening border security, and reducing waiting times for truck drivers.
One Stop Border Posts are designed to streamline and simplify border-crossing processes, promoting efficiency and reducing delays in trade and movement of people, by bringing together all processing agents under one building or location.
One year since its inauguration, Mchinji-Mwami OSBP-the first of its kind for Malawi-has revolutionized cross-border trade in the region. Gone are the days of enduring lengthy bureaucratic processes, redundant paperwork, and long waits. The streamlined procedures achieved through an integrated border management including the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), the government of Malawi and Zambia and their respective immigration authorities, have significantly reduced processing times, making it easier for traders to conduct business between the two countries and beyond.
Malawi and Zambia are crucial trading partners with Malawi exporting products worth $17.6M to Zambia while Zambia exported products worth $124M to Malawi in 2021, according to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). The Mchinji/Mwami One Stop Border Post has eased such trade facilitations.
The facility is also a vital part of the Nacala transport corridor servicing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and a game changer in enhancing promotion of trade integration within the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) block.
Betchani Tcheleni, a Professor of economics from the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS) on the other hand says the facility is vital for promoting trade and economic activities in Malawi as in enhances efficiency, giving traders confidence and certainty when engaging in cross-border transactions.
“Efficiency is very important in transactions, so a one stop border post helps exactly in those lines, and in that way imports and exports trading happen without any huddles. Again one important aspect is that you are able to remove elements of corruption because all services are within one location so you don’t need to pay someone to fast-track procedures, therefore you save on resources,” said
Chisa Chidandale a cross-border trader who frequently transports goods between Malawi and Zambia, said the OSBP facility has significantly reduced time spent at the border for goods clearance as he now access all services under one roof.
“There is a great improvement since the facility became operational; when am going to Zambia to order commodities for my shop, at first I needed to make a stop on the Malawi side and complete all border requirements then cross to the Zambian side where i also needed to make another stop to process all documentation with the immigration and customs before proceeding on my journey and this process could take hours and then i had to go through the same processes on the way back.
As of now, when am going to Zambia I don’t have to make a stop on the Malawi side, I just proceed to Zambia border and complete all the processes under one building since there are also Malawian Immigration and MRA (Malawi Revenue Authority) on that side,” explained Chidandale
Another trader Peter Tsilizani who is also the Secretary General for the Cross-Border Association-Mchinji Chapter, said the streamlined processes and reduced waiting times have made it easier to transport goods and save time and money, allowing traders to focus on growing their businesses.
“Now I can go into Zambia to ply my trade and come back with ease,” said Tsilizani
Truck drivers, who are vital players in cross-border trade, have also expressed their satisfaction with the Mchinji-Mwami OSBP. The improved facilities and processes have significantly enhanced border security measures. Better coordination between security agencies and the use of advanced technology have resulted in a more efficient and effective border control system. This, in turn, has reduced the risk of smuggling, illegal trade, and other security breaches.
Petro Chapitapansi is one of the truck drivers I found at Mchinji border, with more than ten years’ experience on cross-border cargo transportation bringing cement into Malawi from Zambia, he explained of the positive changes the OSBP facility has brought.
“I have used this border for over ten years and witnessed the transition and I must say there are positive changes. In the past I could spend more than three days waiting for cargo clearance but now things have changed for the better as the waiting period has significantly reduced. The facility has also provided a secure packing space for our cargo vehicles, with clean toilets and bathrooms. The only challenges is that we have to pay MK200 to access the toilets and MK400 to take a bath on the Malawi side”, said Chapitapansi.
The Mchinji border has both state of the art cargo and passenger terminals, with passengers spending less that 30 minutes to be cleared before crossing.
Under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Malawi is exposed to a market of over 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$2.5 trillion across Africa. The OSBP therefore becomes a strategic tool for leveraging the country’s trade potential and that of its neighbors.
For the Malawi Revenue Authority, the facility has also improved service delivery as a result of streamlined processes and the full realization of the One Stop Border Post concept, according to Steve Kapoloma, Head of Corporate Affairs for the authority
Additionally, the removal of incentives that contribute to corrupt practices will contribute to enhanced revenue collection and improve business competitiveness for the two countries.
“The operations have been very effective, we see people that were spending three or four hours at the border, now spending one hour or less because the concept of the One Stop Border is that you only stop once to access all border processes. As you are aware that the focus of the one stop border post is mainly trade facilitation, making sure that the importers and exporters that are coming at our border they find it easier to receive our services and we allow them to proceed to do other business; so to that end we are really delivering one hundred percent,” said Kapoloma
The establishment of the Mchinji-Mwami OSBP is not only a testament to Malawi’s commitment to regional integration but also an essential step towards cultivating stronger trade ties with neighboring countries. By promoting efficient cross-border trade, this facility serves as a catalyst for increased economic cooperation and mutual growth within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Malawi is also implementing the OSBP project at Dedza and Mwanza borders. At Dedza Malawi already completed its side of the one stop border post project and the new facility is currently in use while awaiting the Mozambique side to construct their side to commence the one stop border post system.
At Mwaza border station the facility is almost complete and currently undergoing finishing touches. Meanwhile construction works are underway for OSBP at Songwe while a feasibility study for the same was carried out for Chiponde border and a similar project is expected later on at Muloza border.