• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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GATF initiative drives increased border agencies collaboration to enhance trade

GATF initiative drives increased border agencies collaboration to enhance trade

Moving goods across borders in Nigeria entails dealing with various government agencies with overlapping mandates which is discouraging trade and hindering competitiveness.

Recognising the need to improve the country’s trading environment, the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (GATF) – a public-private partnership for trade-led growth, has worked with Nigeria’s public and private players to drive collaboration among border agencies.

To do this, the GATF which is implemented by the German Development Agency (GIZ) and funded by the governments of the US, Canada and Germany brought together the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and other government agencies and the private sector actors to drive collaborations while laying grand work for trade reforms in the country at the national level.

The Alliance initiative which is a three-year project has helped to lay the groundwork for scaling up trade facilitation reform in Africa’s biggest economy at a national level.

Speaking at the closing workshop of the GATF Simplifying Harmonising and Standardising of Border Procedures initiative held recently in Lagos, Seno Usendiah, project manager of Global Alliance for Trade – GIZ said the project has set Nigeria on the path towards the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade facilitation compliance and the enactment of the Business Facilitation Act 2023.

“We have achieved several things from the suggestions we made to the project at the beginning. In parallel, the Alliance and NCS cooperated to increase coordination between border agencies in Nigeria,” she said.

“Initially focused on improving air cargo operations at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, Alliance initiative has since helped to lay the groundwork for scaling up trade facilitation reform at the national level,” she explained.

At the airport, Usendiah noted that the piloting of new Standard Operating Procedures for joint inspection under the initiative has paved the way for faster clearance times for goods while providing a more organised business-friendly working environment.

At the national level, she stated that the project has paved the way for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between NCS and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

“Besides enhancing inter-agency collaboration, the project has also successfully institutionalised public-private dialogue after close to 20 PPD events between 2019 and 2023,” she said, adding that 80 percent of project stakeholders confirmed that trust between the public and private sector has increased – a strong foundation for future reform.

Speaking also, Comptroller Mohammed Yusuf, Customs area controller at Murtala Muhammed Airport command, said NCS, the lead agency in the trade facilitation has done well and has increased its revenue collection.

He said Customs is working to create a single window by collaborating with other border agencies to provide a seamless process for exporters and importers to get all the information they require to trade.

“We have our platforms where information has been provided for importers and exporters but we have to work with other agencies so we are trying to improve by removing all bottlenecks and impediments to all clearance of goods,” Yusuf said.

“We are working with our sister agencies to create an advance ruling that provides adequate information with just a click,” he added.

Abdullahi Usman, secretary of the national trade facilitation committee domiciled in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment said the initiative was launched in Nigeria at the request of the ministry, noting that it has helped harmonise and standardise the processes by reducing the cost of doing business.

“We can see clearly what the agencies are saying that now they have a faster clearance process.” “We now have a better understanding because if you allow the process to be cumbersome, to have unnecessary costs, it will be transferred to the final consumer.”

To drive the role of women in trade facilitation, Blessing Irabor, president of the Organisation of Women in International Trade (OWIT) Nigeria chapter, said that women exporters and importers have learned their voices to the project and the opportunities to collaborate with clearing agencies.

She stressed the need for Customs to create information points in the airport that allow for easy access to information or inquiry, especially for first-time exporters and importers.

She also called for regular training for not just trade officials in the public sector but also the private sector, especially females to enhance cross-border trade.