The lack of a single window for trade facilitation in many West and Central African countries has become an impediment to intra-regional trade, the Secretary General of the Port Management Association of the West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), Mr Michael Luguje, has said.
According to him, out of the 20 countries within the PMAWCA zone, only Ghana, Togo and Benin have national single window systems that cover everything about port clearance procedures, as well as all other public agencies involved in the certification of products and payment of fees within a trade hub.
Countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, he said, had in place customs single windows which have limitations and as such continued to increase human activity in trade facilitation.
Mr Luguje said this in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Tema last Thursday.
It was his view that majority of the countries did not have the national single window platform in place because they did not appreciate the need to have one.
National single windows, he indicated, eliminated complex procedures and excessive paperwork which had a negative impact on time and cost of trade.
“Single windows, as cost saving measures, help facilitate trade, reduce congestion at ports and further reduce time spent in clearance processes,” Mr Luguje said.
Mr Luguje pointed out that the low level of intra-regional trade in Africa continued to persist owing to poor infrastructure, lack of human and institutional capacities and underdevelopment of export base services.
He stated that having the right infrastructure, with proper connectivity, had proven to be an effective cost saving regime because a touch of a button could validate cargo processes and ensure speedy procedures.
“When cargo comes into the port, there are multiplicity of agencies one have to go through to work on documentations but having the needed infrastructure in place makes the processes seamless and improve ship turnaround,” he said.
Mr Luguje maintained that owing to the multiplicity of agencies involved in the cargo delivery and clearance processes, it was important for processes to be digitised and streamlined to facilitate quicker ship (vessel) turnaround time at the ports, as delays do not only pose a trade constraint to countries but also make the cost of doing business very high.
“It is for these reasons the PMAWCA will in July, this year, bring together all member ports together for a high-level meeting in Cotonou, Benin, for the three countries that have the platform to share experiences, success stories, procedures and challenges for other member countries to learn from them,” he said.
Mr Luguje suggested that fraudulent transactions through under-invoicing in trade within the sub-region could reduce significantly if national single windows were deployed by all countries.
He indicated that the illegal fee component in the clearance processes often stood at 25 per cent of total cargo cost owing to human intervention.