NEWS & EVENTS
Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso Hold Final Meeting Before SIGMAT Rail Launch
On June 15, key implementers from the Abidjan-Ouagadougou corridor held a final preparatory meeting before the official rollout of SIGMAT Rail, which is expected at the end of June 22, 2021. Participants reviewed areas of concern and ironed out final details before the launch. This included reviewing the user guide and legal texts (protocoles d’ accord and accord cadre) that allow the exchange of electronic data between the two customs administrations.
SIGMAT is a customs interconnection project that aims to use information technology to facilitate trade, transport, and the free movement of goods within the region. SIGMAT offers benefits to governments, financial institutions, and the private sector, as it paves the way for shared data in real time, which will ultimately reduce waiting times and increase revenues through reduced transit and transportation costs. The TFWA Program is supporting the SIGMAT rollout and will continue enhancing collaborations between stakeholders in the Ivoirian and Burkinabe trade facilitation ecosystem. Following this launch, the program aims to launch SIGMAT for improved customs interconnectivity across West African corridors.
TFWA supports faster and more efficient customs reforms in Côte d’Ivoire
After a successful risk management diagnostic mission in March, the TFWA Program has further committed to supporting Ivoirian Customs’ multileveled reforms. In fact, the program will help the country implement an anticipated risk analysis on sea and air manifest while also enhancing the customs valuation process.
About the anticipated risk analysis on sea and air manifest:
In Côte d'Ivoire, risk analysis currently only applies at the time of customs clearance of goods, based on the elements of customs accounting. Good international practice shows the value of applying risk analysis based on elements of manifests and sea or air bills of lading—improving the detection of fraud, trafficking, and criminal offences. Today, Ivorian Customs is willing to extend its approach to controls based on risk analysis to manifests. The TFWA Program will support information and training on this practice while encouraging the establishment of the methodology, processes and procedures needed for operational-level implementation.
About the customs valuation process:
Following the diagnosis of the World Customs Organization in 2018, the TFWA Program will update the assessment of the value determination process and procedures. TFWA support will allow for the reallocation of human resources to more thoroughly handle the most complex cases. The program will also strengthen DARRV capacities in the area of customs valuation, in particular through the improvement of material and logistical training capacities. Implementation will also enable the transition from a culture of cumbersome controls of customs administration to a culture of service, which is now characteristic of modern, agile, and efficient customs. This is an essential step in managing change for a customs body that strategically aims to promote trade facilitation as a key factor in economic development in a globalized world.
Côte d’Ivoire commits to gender mainstreaming by setting up Trade and Gender Working Group
The TFWA Program worked with Côte d’Ivoire’s National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) Secretariat to create a Trade and Gender Working Group, which was convened for the first time in September. The working group comprises 12 members, including representatives from the Ministry of Commerce, Customs, the Chamber of Commerce, Borderless Alliance, two industry advisory bodies, and three industry associations. Twenty-five percent of these representatives are women. Formalities of this approach were minimal, as the creation of the working group required only the spoken approval of the President of the NTFC, which was obtained retroactively at the general NTFC meeting that followed. While the gender ministry has been invited to join the working group, a representative has not yet been appointed.
The working group’s inaugural meeting focused on sensitizing members to the trade and gender nexus, the results of the TFWA gender and small-scale cross-border trade studies, and planning for the formal presentation of these studies to the broader NTFC. The subsequent meeting will focus on defining objectives for 2021 and gathering relevant trade data to build the case for gender inclusion. In 2021, the working group will explore the possibility of integrating the newly re-initiated "cellules genre" in the trade and transport ministries, identifying gender champions, and supporting the TFWA Program's NTFC gender capacity-building agenda, including through workshops (as the pandemic allows).
Customs and SITARAIL collaboration supports rail customs computerization
On September 15th, a technical meeting was held with Ivoirian and Burkinabe Customs, SITARAIL, ECOWAS, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Bank. The meeting aimed to present UNCTAD, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’ Ivoire with Customs and SITARAIL’s collaboration for the computerization of the rail customs process. Additionally, the meeting focused on the exchange of IT data. SITARAIL has carried out the computer developments necessary to integrate the management of data exchange with the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) into its system. SITARAIL was also able to present ASYCUDA’s different windows for the processing of rail-specific data.
UNCTAD asked Customs from two countries to provide a test environment to integrate the IT data exchange solution and to verify the correct functionality of this new development and of the data exchanges with SITARAIL. The integration of this new module can then be completed in each country, testing and validating the system before the pilot phase is launched (scheduled before yearend).
Another meeting was held on September 24th with Customs of Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, the WCO, and the World Bank to finalize and validate two legal texts: "Joint Circular" and the "Framework Instruction on the Extension of the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT) to International Rail Transit Between the Customs Administrations of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso," which will legally allow the two countries to exchange customs data. These texts will be signed by Customs Directors General at the pilot project’s launch ceremony, which should be organized by the end of the year.
TFWA Program Workshop Targets Key Ivorian Stakeholders
On March 12 and 13, the TFWA Program hosted a workshop in Yamoussoukro, bringing together members of the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC), the Ivorian government, professional associations, and the private sector. The two-day workshop aimed to: i) develop project sheets for selected category C measures; and ii) identify and formulate projects that could benefit from technical assistance and capacity-building support related to the implementation of the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
The workshop included presentations from World Bank and NTFC Secretariat experts, who discussed the TFWA Program, the status of national TFA implementation, Côte d'Ivoire's Category C measures, and the Commercial Information Web Portal (PWIC), a one-stop shop for trade-related information. During the sessions, the NTFC Secretariat indicated that several achievements had been made since the establishment of the NTFC in 2015. With that said, Côte d'Ivoire still requires enhanced assistance to implement category C measures.
This workshop represents an important step in facilitating trade between Côte d’Ivoire and other countries, while also maximizing the benefits resulting from the TFA. At the end of the two-day gathering, the workshop enabled NTFC members to find appropriate methodologies to elaborate technical assistance project sheets. The workshop also helped identify the type of technical assistance needed in relation to category C measures. Further, the TFWA Program team helped draw up project sheets concerning Articles 1, 6, and 8.
In addition to these outcomes, several recommendations emerged from the workshop. The program team outlined a number of next steps, including the elaboration of a strategic plan to be submitted to the TFWA Program. Providing ongoing support to stakeholders in Côte d’Ivoire, the TFWA Program will help strengthen awareness, assess the NTFC, and establish the technical secretariat to facilitate coordination.
Ivorian Missions Focus on Customs Risk Management and Sanitary
and Phytosanitary Systems
From February 17 to 27, the TFWA Program team conducted two missions in Côte d’Ivoire. The first mission aimed to evaluate the Ivorian customs risk management system. The second mission—which happened simultaneously—strived to evaluate the sanitary and phytosanitary system at Côte d’Ivoire’s borders, including at airport and land borders.
With a focus on customs risk management, the team met with several customs directors, visiting the airport’s customs office, the port’s customs office, and the border post of Noe (between Noe, Côte d’Ivoire and Elubo, Ghana). These meetings were conducted to evaluate current customs risk management practices, including the use of the authorized economic operator (AEO) classification system. By identifying, analyzing, evaluating, and treating risks, customs can significantly improve its performance.
As a result of the mission, the team realized that the current risk management system is operational, but needs to be strengthened. Moreover, it became apparent that customs did not fully understand the concept of the AEO, indicating the need for more training. The customs reforms committee agreed with the TFWA Program team’s findings and, as a next step, the team will develop an action plan to help strengthen and improve the customs risk management system.
To advance sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, the TFWA Program also met with key Ivorian ministries, laboratories, and controlling sanitary and phytosanitary entities. Following this mission, stakeholders agreed to receive support from the TFWA Program, principally around the categorization of sanitary and phytosanitary risk and norms. To this end, an action plan will be put in place with experts and involved stakeholders, including customs.
Following both missions, the TFWA Program team is planning to host a workshop presenting key stakeholders with the results of the research, encouraging further dialogue. Based on stakeholder feedback, the team will support the preparation of efficient action plans. Importantly, both action plans will be synchronized—improving trade facilitation within the country. The TFWA Program also highlighted the importance of including Burkina Faso in the action plan, to create impact along the entire corridor.
Rail Customs Interconnection Meeting Advances TFWA Program Objectives
From January 13 to 17, the TFWA Program hosted a rail customs interconnection meeting in Abidjan. Following a previous rail customs interconnection meeting in October 2019, the workshop focused on the monitoring, evaluation, and extension of the SIGMAT solution to railway transportation between Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.
In total, 35 participants attended the meeting, including representatives from Burkinabe and Ivorian customs offices, the SITARAIL railway system, the World Customs Organization, UNCTAD, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and Communauté Portuaire d’Abidjan. The meeting aimed to establish SIGMAT rail implementation planning procedures while creating road interconnection appraisals—to solve issues faced by both administrations related to the current interconnection process. The group also prioritized reaching agreement on rail technical specifications. Further, attendees strived to finalize the joint circular, which provides framework instructions for the application of SIGMAT to international rail transit between Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire.
During the meeting, the group finalized the joint circular, which introduces the rail concept on interconnection. Importantly, the meeting allowed technical specifications for rail processes to be discussed and agreed. Because the SIGMAT solution for rail implementation planning has been agreed, as a next step, a pilot launch will be scheduled.
SIGMAT Implementation Meeting Advances Data Exchange in Burkina Faso
and Côte d'Ivoire
From January 6 to 10, the TFWA Program hosted a customs interconnection technical meeting with stakeholders focused on the Abidjan-Ouagadougou corridor, one of the program’s six priority trade routes. Following last October’s rail customs interconnection meeting in Ouagadougou, the Bollore Group’s railway company, SITARAIL, funded and organized this technical meeting. Held at SITARAIL’s training office in Abidjan, this gathering aimed to define a data exchange architecture between the SITARAIL railway system and the SIGMAT system used by the customs administrations of Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire.
Twenty stakeholders participated in the meeting, including the SITARAIL IT department, freight forwarders, a team of two Burkina Faso customs IT officers, and the Ivorian IT team. Following this meeting, stakeholders improved their understanding of the rail procedures. Additionally, participants learned the technical specifications that will allow them to develop interfaces with SITARAIL, SIGMAT, and the two customs authorities.
Regional customs administrations play an important role in trade facilitation, creating the foundational structures needed to advance the TFWA Program. This meeting laid the groundwork for the program to continue to advance its mission and objectives in the region.
TFWA Program Supports PWIC and GUCE Efficiency in Côte d'Ivoire
From January 13 to 23, the TFWA Program hosted a mission to evaluate the state of the Commercial Information Web Portal (PWIC) and the Single Window for Foreign Trade (GUCE) in Côte d’Ivoire. Requested by the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC), through the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, the mission aimed to find out how the TFWA Program could help both tools become more efficient.
The PWIC was first created by the Ministry of Commerce, with support from the International Finance Corporation. By strengthening this website, the TFWA Program hopes to facilitate the dissemination of user-friendly materials, providing a comprehensive source of information on imports, exports, and transit. Importantly, the website will also provide information on all regulations, procedures, and requirements to trade in Côte d'Ivoire—another critical part of facilitating trade in the country. The PWIC has the ability to serve as a key tool saving the private sector time and money, underlining its importance to Ivorian trade and the TFWA Program.
Launched in July 2013, the GUCE was designed to provide any individual wishing to trade to or from Côte d’Ivoire with clear procedures and adequate support to carry out their activities online. Specifically, the GUCE aims to facilitate the importation and exportation of goods with a simple, fast, and efficient single point of entry for the exchange of electronic information between regulatory agencies and trading participants. The TFWA Program hopes that, with support, the GUCE will gradually consolidate all information relating to foreign trade onto a single transactional portal.
For economic operators, such as traders, these innovations provide faster clearance times, a more transparent and predictable process, and less bureaucracy. For the national economy as a whole, the PWIC and GUCE encourage improved transparency, better governance, and reduced corruption, due to fewer opportunities for physical interaction. With this in mind, the TFWA Program shared a draft report with the NTFC and other stakeholders and, as a next step, the program will host a workshop to encourage stakeholder dialogue toward an action plan—encouraging further improvements to both platforms.