African countries must join others around the world in adopting the National Single Window Environment, an ICT-based concept, to eliminate the bureaucracy posing a challenge to trade processing in the region, the managing director of West Blue Consulting, Valentina Mintah has said.
Speaking at a workshop on single window organised for Nigerian and Ghanaian journalists at the Royal Senchi Resort, Akosombo, Ghana, she declared excessive bureaucracy as the most severe constraint to trade processing in Africa.
Mintah said there was plenty of room for improvement for Africa countries if only they could adopt the single window concept in trade processing, noting that Swaziland ranks 1st in Africa and 30th in the world out of 189 countries on the World Bank trading across border index, with Zimbabwe ranking 100, Ghana 171 and Nigeria 182.
If African countries and stakeholders, according to her, could join forces and pursue the goals of the national single window, a concept developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in 2005, to simplify, harmonise and standardise international trade procedures and associated information flows between trade and government and within government itself, it would be relatively easy to create a solid foundation which will enable the continent achieve the 50 percent better, faster and cheaper trade across border indicators.
The single window, according to the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), is “a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit related regulatory requirements.”
Mintah, who is the lead consultant in the implementation of the Nigeria’s single window concept, said “so matter how much is done as individual institutions and countries in addressing these bottlenecks, it cannot be compared with the positive and timely impact that can be achieved with the joined up efforts of all stakeholders.”
Speaking further, the expert who now presently leads the implementation of the Ghana single window concept, added “that African importers and exporters remain uncompetitive in the global business arena is largely attributable in part, to the number of days it takes to complete import and export processing and their attendant costs.
“The collaboration of sister countries, Ghana and Nigeria on trade facilitation activities will bring about further gains in our quest for increased inter African trade, with the realisation of efficient processes and movement of goods.”
The single window concept she said, helped countries to transition from a culture of delays and high costs of doing business to a culture of faster, simpler, automated and predictable means of processing imports, exports and transit trade.
According to her, many countries around the world are currently focusing on implementing major trade facilitation reforms to enhance their competitiveness and increase their participation in global economy, pointing out that Africa should not be left out.
Since its inception in 2005, single window has been implemented in over 70 countries and the concept is now seen by the World Bank and many other development agencies as a key tool to enhance the trade and economic competitiveness of a country.
Mintah equally defined a single window as “an organic concept focusing on the way we do business both within government and between government and business, ensuring the maximum integration, harmonization and standardization of the process, procedures and related information flows within the international trade environment. She said it was essentially driven by the principle of a partnership between trade and government for economic development and prosperity of a country.
She described the single window as not just an IT software to be procured but a concept that must be organically implemented according to individual country’s needs, adding that in implementing the single window, countries should not stand still at any point, but should see continuous innovation as key to the success of the concept.
“You can’t stand still in this environment, everybody is innovating and competition is high… so many elements come into play in this environment,” Mintah stated, adding what Nigeria had done were only some of the ingredients needed for the full meal to be cooked.