Small-scale cross-border traders (SSCBTs) are key economic actors in West Africa. Learn more about our work to understand existing constraints affecting SSCBTs especially women and design interventions to respond to identified constraints and ultimately make trade easier, cheaper, and safer.
NEWS & EVENTS
New Togolese National Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards
Last year, following a request from the Ministry of Agriculture, the TFWA Program team conducted a one-week sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) mission to assess Togo’s national SPS legal, regulatory, and institutional framework in accordance with applicable international standards, including the WTO SPS Agreement and the AfCFTA.
This assessment exposed several gaps, challenges, and inconsistencies between the Togolese SPS practices and international standards, especially related to administrative institutions and organizational capacity. Based on the mission’s findings, an SPS Action Plan was drafted to optimize Togo’s current SPS strategy and its ability to carry out SPS legal,regulatory,and institutional reforms. At the same time, the plan aims to improve Togo’s sanitary, phytosanitary, and zoo-sanitary control and inspection procedures. To meet this need, the team worked with Togolese SPS government officials to draft several legal instruments, including a new SPS law, decrees, an administrative order, and an administrative decision.
From December 12 to 16, the TFWA Program team organized a working group session in Kpalimé, Togo. At the five-day workshop, participants reviewed the revised draft Togolese national SPS standards (including draft laws, decrees, orders, and decisions) to ensure their compliance with the applicable international standards. This reform process is essential to facilitate the exportation of Togolese agriculture products in West Africa and internationally.
Several legal deliverables were finalized:
- The draft decree to create the new Togolese National SPS Committee;
- The draft law on SPS plant and vegetation standards;
- The draft decree governing pesticide management;
- The draft administrative order on phytosanitary inspection and plant quarantine; and
- The draft decision to classify plants, plant products, and other imported merchandise according to phytosanitary risk.
The TFWA Program will continue its work to improve sanitary and phytosanitary measures across the region.
TFWA Launches Video on SSCBT Training in Northern Togo
Recently, the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program produced a short video showcasing its efforts to build the technical and behavioral capacity of small-scale cross border traders (SSCBTs), especially women. The initiative was piloted in Kara, a city in Northern Togo that is situated along the Ouagadougou-Lomé trade corridor.
Women traders face a disproportionate number of risks and challenges, including lengthy customs procedures, limited knowledge of border-crossing rules and procedures, and abuse. These challenges can be costly and time consuming, impeding trade.
The TFWA Program’s capacity building initiative is designed to raise trader awareness of rules and regulations. An interactive and participatory approach teaches women traders (in local languages) the key behavioral competencies they need to thrive in trade. The video captures dialogue sessions between traders and border authorities that were designed to build trust and improve communication, ultimately making trade safer, faster and cheaper for SSCBTs.
In total, 209 traders—90% women—were empowered through the initiative. The TFWA Program remains committed to improving conditions for women traders and plans to launch the initiative in other West African countries.
TFWA Program Launches SSCBT Training in Northern Togo
The TFWA Program launched an innovative behavioral training and dialogue platform that will enhance small-scale cross-border traders’ (SSCBTs) awareness of trade rules and regulations. At the same time, the training will improve trust and communication with border authorities. These efforts build on the TFWA Program’s Trader Association Mapping conducted in 2020 and Capacity Building Needs Assessment completed in 2021—results showed low trader awareness of trade rules and regulations as a key capacity building need.
To meet this need, the TFWA Program launched an SSCBT training pilot in Kara, a city in Northern Togo that is situated along the Ouagadougou-Lomé trade corridor. The launch, which took place from 5-9 September, began by sensitizing traders on the free circulation of people and goods in the ECOWAS and UEMOA zones, as well as trader rights and obligations. The proceedings were attended by members of both the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commission gender teams, as well as a representative of the UEMOA Trade Directorate. Other activities included a market visit to learn more about the participating traders’ business environment and gather initial feedback on the first two training modules.
The training covered both technical and behavioral content:
- Technical: National and regional trade rules and regulations, as well as trader rights and obligations.
- Behavioral: Key competencies needed for traders to stand up for those rights and meet those obligations by respecting said rules and regulations. These behaviors include personal initiative, communication, confidence, persistence, and resilience. In parallel, dialogue with border authorities will focus on building trusting relationships with traders.
The training will be delivered to 200 traders—more than 90% of whom are women—and take place over six weeks. The training will culminate in a town hall forum with border authorities to share experiences and build trust. This initiative is notable both for delivering capacity building to small-scale operators in a relatively remote, rural location, as well as for being designed and implemented directly by the TFWA Program team.
TFWA Supports OTR Customs with Risk Management
From 8-12 August, the TFWA Program organized the second technical workshop for 40 Togolese Customs Officers of the Togo Revenue Authority (OTR). The five-day training was an excellent opportunity for the OTR to strengthen its existing processes and adopt modern, holistic Customs-risk management approaches for future operations. The workshop greatly contributed to a broader understanding of various topics, including techniques to streamline the Customs-clearance process (such as the process used at both the Autonomous Port of Lomé and the Lomé International Airport), while also reducing the time and cost of imported cargo at the Togolese border.
Workshop participants were pleased by the outcome of the training, and the OTR expressed its appreciation of the TFWA Program’s efforts. As next steps, the OTR, with support from the TFWA Program, plans to carry out a Customs risk management mission to Lomé and submit an action plan to guide Togolese Customs Officers in future clearance operations at the Lomé seaport and airport.
TFWA Program and Togo Revenue Authority Train Customs Officials on Customs Risk Management
From April 4 to 8, the TFWA Program, in collaboration with the Togo Revenue Authority (OTR), successfully organized a technical training workshop on customs risk management. The hybrid session was attended by 50 Togolese customs officers and facilitated by a TFWA Program customs expert with support from OTR experts in risk management.
Participants benefited from the training, which aimed to improve their capacity in international techniques and best practices governing customs risk management. The training complemented the current OTR initiative to minimize physical inspections of imported cargo at the Togolese border through a variety of customs risk management mechanisms, including IT applications.
As one of the key measures contained in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the application of risk management improves efficiency and reduces customs clearance time, while strengthening controls to detect fraud and other offences.
Overall, the participants were pleased with the outcome of the training and requested a follow-up training, with a focus on other customs risk activities, such as the action plan for implementation of risk management and a mapping of cargo transit at the Cinkasse border in August 2022. In fact, the TFWA Program team and the OTR’s management have already met with the Customs/OTR Director of the Lomé Port to agree on a practical approach for this next training.
Togo Embarks to Achieve Full ISO Certification of the OTR, Togo’s Revenue Authority
In February, with support from the TFWA Program, the Office of Togolese Revenue / Office Togolais des Recettes (OTR) officially launched a five-week activity to assist the systematic integration of Quality Assurance with the OTR. The TFWA Program has provided technical assistance—including practical tools and recommendations—to support this key public institution as it strengthens its commitment toward enhanced governance and public accountability. Risk mapping processes, reviewing internal audit and internal control architecture, and other competencies support the OTR’s high level of engagement to actively manage and mitigate risks in relation to its management objectives and organizational performance. The OTR is engaged to achieve full ISO certification for all of its processes before the end of 2024.
Optimizing the OTR’s organizational system and shifting the office toward a culture of quality service for all its citizens can change the cross-border trading ecosystem.
The TFWA Program congratulates the government of Togo and the OTR on this exciting development.
NTFC Revises Decree to Incorporate Gender Sensitivity
In June 2021, the Togolese NTFC adopted a new draft presidential decree. As a next step, the newly drafted decree will be submitted to the Ministry of Trade/Commerce, where it is expected to be approved. Once the minister has approved the decree, it will be submitted to the president of the republic for adoption.
The Presidential NTFC Decree includes several key new features:
- Aligning the NTFC’s mandate with the trade facilitation objectives of the AfCFTA;
- Expanding the NTFC’s permanent membership to include the Ministry for the Promotion of Women; and
- Creating a gender sub-committee within the NTFC to provide targeted support to small-scale women traders in Togo.
The decree materialized after continued dialogue between the Togolese NTFC and the TFWA Program, which encouraged the NTFC to welcome diverse representatives and stakeholders from the Gender Ministry. The TFWA Program looks forward to continued engagements and to further anchoring gender equality and gender mainstreaming into the NTFC’s operations.
Togo Customs Oﬃce Participates in Virtual TFWA Mission
In early March, the TFWA Program conducted a virtual mission in Togo to support the Togolese Customs Office/ Office Togolais des Recettes (OTR). Despite the ongoing pandemic, this virtual engagement allowed the TFWA team to work with the OTR and help build its performance around good governance and voluntary compliance.
The OTR Commissioner General requested the TFWA Program’s support to review and strengthen OTR operations toward systematically adopting a customer-centric approach to organizational performance. With this in mind, the program aims for an integrated and systemic transformation that will cover:
- holistic quality assurance;
- voluntary compliance of economic operators to customs and tax regulations; and
- conforming and increasing partnerships and cooperation with the private sector and with other border agencies. The end goal is to improve OTR operations and engagements with stakeholders.
Based on discussions during the virtual mission, the TFWA team would initially start by assessing and auditing the quality of the administration system. Next, the team would work to improve OTR client management by knowing, managing, and improving communication and client loyalty.
The OTR is a key partner and important focus for the TFWA Program. Optimizing the OTR’s organizational structure and shifting the office toward a culture of service— thus enhancing partnerships and further building OTR staff capacity—can change the cross-border trading ecosystem and catalyze easier, more efficient, and more cost-effective trade facilitation in the sub-region.
Leveraging the power of goods grouping to revive cross-border trade
Aside from being an economic lifeline to many, cross-border trade also guarantees food security by channeling food surplus from one region to another. Many cross-border traders source their produce from Togo, then travel to neighboring countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, or Ghana via passenger buses or taxis. Often, several packages are informally, individually transported across the border. To decrease the price of transportation, traders can group their goods into one truck, working together to save money.
Some goods grouping is already practiced by the Bonké bus station in Lomé, a station that conveys packages between Benin, Ghana, and Togo. If adopted more widely, goods grouping could help traders convey goods more frequently, at lower prices, and in safer ways. With the recent movement of people and goods drastically slowed down, and with the aim of alleviating the economic burdens facing many small-scale traders, Togo’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIT) and the National Cooperative of Road Hauliers of Togo (CNATROT) launched the TALDEO-TRANS initiative: a project to pilot goods grouping from Lomé to smaller areas within Togo.
Togolese stakeholders called on the TFWA Program to collaboratively develop a feasibility study assessing the potential market for goods grouping between Lomé and its hinterlands. The study will also look at grouping for cross-border transport between the Togolese capital and Ghana and Benin. The aim is to design the appropriate technical logistics to expand this model.
With TFWA Program support, goods grouping could become an important part of post-pandemic recovery for traders, sparking a wider trend in regional trading that is eventually replicated in other countries. The end goal is for the continued flow of goods and increased food security in this fragile sub-region.
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.