E-Commerce: Complexities, Challenges And Opportunities Under The Spotlight At The SAAFF Summit3

E-commerce and digitalisation are not specific to individual countries. They are global phenomena, giving local companies access to global markets and global supply, and significant opportunities, if leveraged correctly. The boom in e-commerce has also changed a significant part of the international trade environment, presenting challenges to Customs administrations. The complexities and challenges of e-commerce are the focus of one of the panel discussions at the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) Summit, taking place online on 16 and 17 September.

“E-commerce is the fastest-growing segment of the express logistics business,” says Garry Marshall, Chief Executive Officer of the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) and moderator of the panel discussion. SAEPA describes e-commerce in the parcel industry as business-to-consumer (B2C) home deliveries. “In South Africa e-commerce grew by 24% in 2020,” says Marshall, “but I think this figure is hugely underestimated. When I look at our industry, this is up by 80% in some cases.” South Africa is ranked as the 37th largest e-commerce market in the world, with revenues of around R60-billion.

Marshall says that, while e-commerce is growing at a phenomenal rate, legislation is far behind what is actually happening. E-commerce encompasses the trade of small, low-value items, which makes the efficient and smart clearance of these consignments crucial. One example is the recent call for comment by SARS around low value cargo. SARS is proposing that goods valued at under R500 would not require a clearing instruction, as this is anti-trade facilitation. “The treatment of low value cargo needs to be revised to ensure its efficient distribution,” says Marshall.

“Regulatory issues should not become a burden or constraint, choking international trade,” says Dr Martin Cameron, Managing Director of Trade Advisory, one of the participants in the panel discussion. “The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers opportunities, but for it to be successful, the harmonisation of standards and processes is essential. Without this, we will not have the envisioned free flow of trade in Africa.”

Cameron adds that the lack of the required and efficient physical infrastructure in Africa prevents goods being moved effectively and efficiently between most destinations on the Continent. Because of this, Africa needs to think out of the box and come up with alternative models for e-commerce fulfilment in Africa.”

The e-commerce panel discussion at the SAAFF Summit will be moderated by Garry Marshall – Chief Executive Officer of the South African Express Parcel Association. The panel comprises Jason Blackman - Senior Director - Customs, Trade Compliance and Regulatory Affairs: DHL Express - Sub Saharan Africa and Dr Martin Cameron - WTO Chair team member and Managing Director: Trade Advisory.

For more information or to register, visit https://saaffsummit.co.za.

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