African chambers of commerce discuss best practices in use of single windows in enabling cross border trade
The Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), in collaboration with the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), concluded a two-day consultative meeting on Tuesday, 23 May, 2017 that discussed ways for African chambers of commerce to utilize single windows in enabling cross border trade.
Solomon Afework, First Vice President of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, speaking at the beginning of the meeting, said: “The adoption and use of the single window system as a key component of trade policy provides many benefits to the business community as it reduces the transaction cost of trade.”
He added: “As we know, the entry into force of the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) launches a new phase for trade facilitation reforms all over the world and creates a significant boost for commerce and the multilateral trading system as a whole.”
He said it is forecast that full implementation of the TFA will reduce trade cost by an average 14.3 percent.
The coordinator of the ATPC, David Luke, in his opening statement said the elimination of tariffs on the continent will not be enough to bring transformative benefits expected from the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) unless aided by the implementation of trade facilitation measures.
Single windows could therefore help in ensuring that the benefits of the CFTA are felt more widely, said Mr. Luke.
Guinea’s Ambassador in Addis Ababa, Sidibe Kaba, stressed the need to mobilize the continent’s governments and private sector in advancing regional integration.
The meeting brought together representatives from the African Chambers of Commerce, EcoBank, African Alliance for E-Commerce, revenue and customs officials, private sector and academia, to share experiences and best practices in trade. They came out with the following key trade policy recommendations towards the implementation of the single windows:
Governments in preparing their suite of Single Window products should take into consideration Single Window Interoperability to facilitate interconnectivity and interoperability with national (or regional) Single Windows.
The business community has diverse interests and is an important partner that needs to be engaged during the whole process in order to verify that the potential gains are realized. The government authorities need to have respect for the diverse interests of different industries and the need of a certain degree of transparency as a minimum condition to allow the business community to coordinate and prepare for consultations.
In spite of significant effort, border management inefficiencies continue to impact heavily on the competitiveness of African countries. The focus of reform efforts should shift beyond customs to tackle the systems and procedures employed by other border management agencies, such as health, agriculture, quarantine, police, immigration, standards, and myriad other organizations involved in regulating trade flows.
Business understands that most of the challenges in implementing the Single Window are not associated with technology but rather getting individual agencies to collaborate to achieve a collective goal. The meeting noted the many good deal of practical experience in Africa on what works, what doesn’t and why. It learnt, from trial and error, that certain prerequisites need to be in place to support reformers. Carefully planned and executed preparatory work by the government can greatly improve the probability of success.
Consultative, formal submission, feedback… be held regularly to present the private sector’s views and ideas and make sure that the strategy being developed meets the needs of the business community.