NEWS & EVENTS
National Approval Committee members in Cabo Verde, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, and Togo strengthen their skills on ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme approval procedures
The TFWA Program supported the ECOWAS Commission Directorate of Customs Union and Taxation (DCUT) to organize a virtual training on ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) approval procedures. The workshops targeted National Approval Committee (NAC) members in in Cabo Verde (5th to 9th October) Guinea (12th to 14th October), Burkina Faso (15th, 16th and 19th October), Benin, Niger, and Togo (9th to 13th November). In total, 102 people completed the workshops, including participants from the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Regional Integration, Ministry of Finance, Customs Directorate, the Chamber of Commerce and National Export Promotion Body.
One objective of these nine workshops was to strengthen the functioning of the NACs by training their members on the ETLS mechanism. At the same time, the workshops aimed to provide ECOWAS Member States with a good number of trained ETLS resource people to facilitate activities, raise awareness, and train the national business community on ETLS, with a particular emphasis on highlighting the advantages of the scheme and the criteria for approval of companies and products.
The workshops allowed NAC members to master the ETLS mechanism, ensuring that a good number of ETLS resource persons are available in each trained ECOWAS Member State. Through these workshops, the approval process will be facilitated at the national level and the timeline for approval will be drastically reduced. Trainees will lead national awareness, information, and capacity building activities on the ETLS mechanism in order to strengthen regional integration in the ECOWAS region. As a result, the TFWA Program hopes to see a significant increase in the number of submissions of applications for approval to the scheme from these countries. Following the workshops, trainee-led national activities will also strengthen regional ETLS integration in the ECOWAS region.
Niger appoints NTFC Permanent Secretary following TFWA Program advice
In May, the Minister of Commerce and the Private Sector of Niger appointed Mme Khamed Salamatou Mahamadou as the Permanent Secretary of the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC). Prior to the appointment, Mme Mahamadou served as the Head of the External Commerce Division at the Ministry of Commerce. A career commerce ministry staff member and a longtime expert on the trade facilitation portfolio, she also has a graduate degree in project management, making her an ideal candidate for the job – ensuring dynamic institutional development of Niger’s NTFC.
The appointment of a dedicated secretary to the National Trade Facilitation Committee, which is co-chaired by the Ministry of Commerce and the Directorate General of Customs, is one of the institutional development steps that the TFWA Program team advised the government of Niger to take. The NTFC chairs also agreed with the TFWA team’s proposal to assign a budget line for NTFC activities. Further, they agreed to upgrade the founding decree, ensuring comprehensive representation of all relevant state agencies, as well as the private sector and civil society organizations.
We wish Mme Salamatou and the Nigerien NTFC the best of luck in their endeavors and look forward to hearing further good news from Niger regarding the institutional development of its NTFC.
Customs Authority Training Helps Advance TFWA Program Objectives in Niger
On February 26 and 27, the TFWA Program and Niger’s customs authority and conducted a two-day training for Nigerien customs officers. The training focused on the new ECOWAS customs code, aiming to improve understanding and adoption within the authority.
Twenty-five customs officers from the Nigerian customs authority attended the training, which was spearheaded by the ECOWAS Commission and opened by a representative of the director general of customs. During the two-day session, the officers were informed that as the region moves toward achieving a customs union, ECOWAS Member States have adopted the Community Customs Code—a document adopted under the guidance of the ECOWAS Commission, in line with the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the revised Kyoto Convention. The customs code includes major regulatory changes that consider the evolution of customs procedures in response to new requirements around international trade. The ECOWAS Customs code is also meant to: i) enable the community to harmonize the coordinated management of its borders; ii) ensure the uniform and coherent enforcement of regional rules across the community customs territory; and iii) provide customs administrations of ECOWAS Member States the opportunity to improve their procedures and promote regional cooperation.
The training covered a number of relevant and timely topics, including: control of goods, inspection of travelers and their luggage, rights and obligations of persons under the customs legislation, decisions on the application of customs laws, customs officer powers, pre-clearance formalities and clearance operations, verification of declaration and customs controls, payment and repayment of duties and taxes, release and removal of goods, customs debt and customs debt guarantees, state warehouses, priority operations, free circulation procedures and re-importation in the same state, customs procedures with economic impact, trade and industrial activities, and the free zone.
TFWA Program Improves Understanding of Trade Key Agreements in Niger
On February 24, the ECOWAS Commission, Borderless Alliance, the Nigerien Ministry of Trade and Private Sector Promotion, and Niger’s Chamber of Commerce organized a one-day sensitization workshop under the TFWA Program umbrella.
The workshop focused on the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), aiming to inform the private sector of the implications of both agreements. In total, 66 people attended the event, comprised of representatives from the private sector, public sector, media, and donor organizations.
The event was declared open by a representative from the Ministry of Trade and Private Sector Promotion, while key addresses were delivered by the ECOWAS Commission, the European Union, GIZ, and the president of Nigerien Chamber of Commerce. In an effort to notify the private sector, these presentations highlighted that Niger ratified the TFA and submitted its categorized trade facilitation commitments to the WTO. Further, it was noted that Niger is one of the ECOWAS Member States that has already signed and ratified the ACFTA agreement.
Following the presentations, private sector participants believed that the agreements would make trade easier and more transparent. With that said, it was recommended that the government consider palliative measures to support the private sector, to mitigate any potential negative effects. Participants also advocated for more consultation and private sector involvement in trade negotiations, since the private sector ultimately feels the effect of any trade policy. Looking forward, the group agreed that further consultations with the private sector were needed, as one day was not sufficient to understand the full implications and meaning of both agreements.
TFWA Program Border Mission to Malanville-Gaya Joint Border Post Looks into Border Management
From February 24 to 28, the TFWA Program team visited Niamey and the Benin-Niger border (Malanville-Gaya Joint Border Post). The mission aimed to identify and evaluate border management issues in Niger, both at the headquarters level and on the ground. While on mission, the team field-tested a new comprehensive questionnaire developed by the program to evaluate border management and trade facilitation in Niger.
The TFWA Program team spent three days at the border, interviewing customs and other agencies with a presence at the border post (including frontier police, sanitary and phytosanitary services, water and forests protection, and health and fire protection). The team also interviewed Koumate and Kotcha park managers, private border management contractors, and the senior management of the Malanville Joint Border Post. In Niamey, the team interviewed senior officials at the Directorate-General of Customs and Directorate-General of Waters and Forests, as well as freight forwarders. The team was supported by the Malanville Joint Border Post administrator and other cooperating counterparts, which helped the TFWA Program advance its goals in the region.
At the end of the mission, the team concluded that existing joint border management could be significantly improved. Specifically, the team identified the need for enhanced communication and coordination, simultaneous presence and inspections, and the presence of respective National Trade Facilitation Committees. The team also documented very poor Internet connectivity, unstable electricity provisions, low computerization of border agencies, and the poor condition of trucks and parts of the highway. Also, the team concluded that border procedures for small-scale and cross-border traders could be further simplified and streamlined in Niger.
Based on the issues identified, the mission issued specific recommendations to UEMOA, which manages the Malanville Joint Border Post and to the governments of Niger and Benin. As a next step, the border management questionnaire tested during the mission will be adapted and improved for other border missions.
TFWA Program Supports NTFC Institutional Anchoring and Compliance in Niger
Following activities held in November 2019, the TFWA Program hosted a three-day workshop in Niamey from January 27 to 31, 2020. The workshop aimed to support Niger’s National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) in strengthening its institutional anchoring and operational capacities, with a focus on assisting the NTFC to meet its World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) obligations. The mission assisted the NTFC in preparing timely notifications to the WTO, which were due by February 22, 2020.
To achieve this, the TFWA Program team hosted bilateral discussions with the chair and vice-chair of the NTFC, the NTFC Secretariat, and the minister special adviser to the president, who oversees national strategy related to cross-border trade and continental trade integration. During these meetings, the program team discussed institutional strengthening of the NTFC and the upcoming notification deadlines due to the WTO. Existing synergies between the WTO TFA, the African Continental Free Trade Area, and World Bank Doing Business reform packages were highlighted, and, consequently, need to adopt sustainable mechanisms to translate political commitments and action points into operational reforms. In the meeting, the TFWA Program team recommended that the Nigerien authorities consolidate the rationalization of resources and coherence of decision-making processes between these three packages.
Following the TFWA Program workshop, Niger’s NTFC established a coordinated work schedule to build NTFC capacities around TFA-related activities planning and also successfully finalized the Category B notifications due at end of February. For context, notifications were required for the definitive implementation dates of Category B measures—TFA provisions that can be met autonomously, without the assistance of development partners.
Looking forward, the TFWA Program will provide continuous support to the NTFC to develop results-based technical assistance requirements, working in cooperation with the International Trade Centre, which is growing capacity on the ground with an onboarded TFWA Program country focal point and an NTFC support expert joining the team soon.