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Africans Urged to Carefully plan and execute preparatory work for the success of Single Window System

25 May 2017
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The two day consultative meeting of the ‘Enabling Cross Border Trade – ways chambers of commerce can lobby in support of the single window’ ended in Addis Ababa on Tuesday May 23, 2017 with an urgent emphasis on the need to carefully planned and executed preparatory work by African governments to greatly improve the probability of success of single window system. Further efforts to Governments suite in preparing to Single Window products should take into consideration Single Window Interoperability to facilitate interconnectivity and interoperability with national (or regional) Single Windows, participants pointed out in their recommendations following the two days of consultation.

The meeting was organized by the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI) with the support of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Trade Policy Center (UNECA/ATPC) at the United Nations Conference Center on the 22-23 May, 2017.

Speaking at the meeting H.E. Mrs. Sidibe Fatoumata Kaba, Ambassador of the Republic of Guinea said that the single window system not only facilitates customs clearance, but also paves the way for the future connectivity with other single window systems in the region. ‘This is especially important as Africa’s CFTA is taking shape’ she noted.

H.E. Mrs. Sidibe noted that "more and more countries in Africa have succeeded in developing a full-fledged single window system for trade”, adding that many more are working towards implementing a fully fledged system.

The Enabling cross border trade consultation comes on the heels of the adoption in February 22, 2017, of the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA) after obtaining the two-thirds acceptance of the agreement from its 164 members.

Highlighting on the issue Mr. Solomon Afework, 1st Vice President of PACCI on his speech stressed that the adoption and use of the single window system as a key component of trade policy reduces the transaction cost of trade.

‘The entry into force of the WTO trade facilitation agreement launches a new phase for trade facilitation reforms all over the world and creates a significant boost for commerce and the multilateral trading system as a whole’ he noted.

The meeting brought together business representatives and experts from Africa and Asia, notably from Singapore to discuss issues on the latest trends, opportunities and technologies for adoption and implementation of the trade single window system and information exchange in Africa’s context and ways the chambers of commerce and other business support associations can influence the trade facilitation implementation process.

In his opening speech Dr. David Luke Program coordinator at the UNECA/ATPC states that the consultation is part of the ATPC-PACCI partnership aiming to bringing together the business and participants from various professional spheres to facilitate discussion, exchange of ideas and joint problem-solving. ‘If strategically used, the TFA could be used to enhance implementation of the single window. However, implementation will only be successful if the concept – and its benefits – are fully understood and internalized among the key stakeholders in the process’ he further noted.

The main highlights of the consultation would be [i] the case study of Nigeria and Kenya on the preparedness and implementation of the trade single window, [ii] the experience of trade single window system operation of Democratic Congo and Madagascar, and [iii] the experience of single window system developers from CrimsonLogic, Singapore which highlight the new trends and approaches and associated benefits of the system.

Key recommendations from the consultation meeting are expected to support national implementation efforts and highlight on continuing debate. They are;

  • Governments in preparing their suite of Single Window products should take into consideration Single Window Interoperability to facilitate interconnectivity and interoperability with national (or regional) Single Windows.
  • The business community has diverse interests and is an important partner that needs to be engaged during the whole process in order to verify that the potential gains are realized. The government authorities need to have respect for the diverse interests of different industries and the need of a certain degree of transparency as a minimum condition to allow the business community to coordinate and prepare for consultations.
  • In spite of significant effort, border management inefficiencies continue to impact heavily on the competitiveness of African countries. The focus of reform efforts should shift beyond customs to tackle the systems and procedures employed by other border management agencies, such as health, agriculture, quarantine, police, immigration, standards, and myriad other organizations involved in regulating trade flows.
  • Business understands that most of the challenges in implementing the Single Window are not associated with technology but rather getting individual agencies to collaborate to achieve a collective goal. The meeting noted the many good deal of practical experience in Africa on what works, what doesn’t and why. It learnt, from trial and error, that certain prerequisites need to be in place to support reformers. Carefully planned and executed preparatory work by the government can greatly improve the probability of success.
  • Consultative, formal submission, feedback … be held regularly to present the private sector’s views and ideas and make sure that the strategy being developed meets the needs of the business community.
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The Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established in 2009 by 35 founding national business chambers to influence government policy and create a better operating environment for business.

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