The successful launch of the Botswana Trade Portal is expected to result in a decline in the cost of doing business, as the time taken to collect information will be significantly reduced. Traders have previously lamented that gathering related information for the movement of goods contributed to the cost of doing business, citing that such an outdated measure was not compatible with today’s trading environment which demands seamless access to relevant information.
Speaking to Sunday Standard on the introduction of the portal, businessman Rajiva Chandran who runs an electrical cable business hailed the single point of access to information, adding “information is a powerful tool which if made readily available can give businesses competitive advantages.”
The Botswana Trade Portal was launched by the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC), which given Botswana’s membership to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was consistent with the requirement for Botswana to publish all information relating to trade. From a practical point, the information trade portal will assist importers and exporters by providing them with comprehensive, timely and up to date information concerning trade. The process began over a year ago and was officially launched on Tuesday last week.
The portal was lauded by Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry Saadique Kebonang as a tool that will significantly contribute to trade accessibility. Among its anticipated users, the Trading Across Borders and the Freight Forwarders Associations commented that it was a welcomed development. BITC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Letsebe Sejoe highlighted that there previously was no single authoritative point of reference in relation to trade, which following such an assessment necessitated establishment of the portal. Sejoe disclosed that the World Bank provided funding of US$ 600,000 (approximately P7 million) to set up the portal, in addition to offering technical support.
Giving a live demonstration into the contents of the trade portal, Ian Hunt who worked as a consultant on behalf of World Bank explained that the portal is the central location in which trade information is stored. He said the portal provides direct links to particular websites of agencies involved in trade across the trading environment. The portal, he pointed out, will provide the latest news and announcements posted by different agencies. The website allows membership to capture details of business entities they are interested in. Hunt highlighted that the information portal precedes the national ‘single window’ which over and above the information provided will enable the business community to transact and interact with various agencies online. BITC Corporate Communications Director, Kutlo Moagi told Sunday Standard that the relationship between the Botswana Trade Portal and the National Single Window is the fact that, if one is undertaken before the other as is the case of Botswana, it establishes a model for inter-departmental collaboration and collective governance which is a common and essential prerequisite to the success of both.
“In other words, the management structure, legal basis and mechanisms established to implement and manage the Trade Portal on an ongoing basis could easily be the foundation for the governance model of the National Single Window going forward,” expressed Moagi.
A challenge that the portal might face is the difficulty in making sure that all involved agencies provide regular and up to date information, which in essence, needs the website to be effectively managed. Should this management not be the case, the information is anticipated to prove irrelevant. Responding to the concern, Moagi acknowledged the importance of proactively maintaining the portal so as to meet the needs of traders.
“BITC has set up a dedicated Botswana Trade Portal team for regular updates and monitoring of the Portal as well as signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with most of the collaborating Departments where trade-related information and updates will be sourced from,” assured Moagi.