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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.


TFWA Program Holds Risk Management & Customs Intelligence Analysis Workshop


From January 29 to February 2, the TFWA Program supported a workshop for customs agents on risk management and customs intelligence analysis. Held both online and in Bamako, the two-day session attracted 30 (in-person) and 3 (virtual) participants from the Malian Customs administration. Mr. Takouo Tai Jules, Ivorian Customs Administrator and WCO Certified Master Trainer, facilitated the in-person session with virtual support from Denis Berger, SYDONIA Expert, Bernard Touboul, TFWA Consultant and Customs Specialist, and Sidikou Salihou Mamadou, TFWA Program Consultant.

The workshop forms part of the TFWA Program’s ongoing activities to improve customs’ efficiency in risk evaluation and mitigation. The TFWA Program already successfully completed a risk analysis and management (RAM) strategy diagnosis in February 2023, a RAM strategy for the Malian Customs Administration in March 2023, and an operational diagnosis of the customs’ RAM operational processes and procedures in August 2023.

During the sessions, experts highlighted the importance of using tools for risk management and intelligence analysis in day-to-day customs activities to facilitate trade and optimize the performance of Mali’s customs department. By the end of the workshop, several recommendations emerged:

    Build a pool of national experts and trainers in risk management and intelligence analysis;

    Make customs officials aware of institutional and individual training opportunities (online modules via the WCO’s CLiKC platform and the Customs Learning and Knowledge Community);

     Update the profiles of agents in charge of risk management and intelligence analysis and;

     Establish a formal framework for exchanging and sharing information related to customs seizures and findings within the a priori and a posteriori control services.

Other recommendations from the diagnostic report include building capacity within the customs administration that aligns with sustainable RAM’s objectives. This support must be structured around a human resources management model and based on best practices in recruitment, mobility, training, and skills development.

Overall, the workshop was very well received. Malian Customs commended the quality of the session, both in terms of the relevance of the modules and the expertise of the facilitators. As part of the regional cooperation between the Mali and Ivorian customs administrations, the director general of Malian Customs sent a letter of appreciation to the director general of Ivorian Customs, thanking him for the successful workshop.

The next stage of the TFWA Program’s RAM technical assistance to Mali Customs will focus on building the post-clearance inspection capacity of about thirty customs inspectors.

Mali Launches ECOWAS Online Program


In Mali, the TFWA Program supported the launch of the ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs), becoming the 13th NTFC to do so in the region.

This intensive professional capacity building training equips NTFC members and their Secretariats with the knowledge and awareness necessary to achieve their objective to advance the implementation of sustainable trade facilitation reforms in the region. Courses are delivered online, with key experts closely monitoring participant progress.

The program provided an opportunity for participants to familiarize themselves with key modules on trade facilitation, including:

  • National Trade Facilitation Committees: Understanding the Concept of National Trade Facilitation Committees;
  • Trade Facilitation and Development: Discovering the benefits of implementing trade facilitation reforms and how these reforms can contribute to a country’s development;
  • Introduction to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement: The history, structure, nature of obligations, and importance of the preferential and differential treatment provisions under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; and
  • Gender Perspective on Trade Facilitation Reforms: Understanding how trade facilitation and gender issues are interlinked and why discussing trade facilitation through a gender lens is essential.

Overall, the courses were well received and the feedback from program participants has been incredibly positive.

TFWA Program Holds Workshop Setting the Stage for SIGMAT


Under the framework of the SIGMAT project, TFWA Program experts held a working session with representatives of the High Directorate of Customs in Mali. This session reignited the SIGMAT work previously undertaken by the TFWA Program in Mali, which was paused due to political instability.

SIGMAT is a customs interconnection initiative that aims to improve regional integration by automating transit procedures between ECOWAS Member States. In turn, this makes trade easier, faster, and more secure. Mali is one of the many countries in West Africa to benefit from SIGMAT’s technological advancement, which greatly impacts trade by reducing cost and delays in transit.

To show their appreciation for the renewed efforts to operationalize SIGMAT, high-level personnel of the High Directorate of Customs, including the Director General, presented gifts to the TFWA Program team (pictured here), thanking them for their unwavering support for the SIGMAT initiative.


Customs Risk Analysis and Management Technical Assistance Officially Launched


March 2022

Proper risk management in border management is one of the most important preconditions for trade facilitation. With this in mind, the TFWA Program recently provided technical assistance for Mali’s Customs Administration to strengthen, update, and modernize its risk analysis and management (RAM) system. TFWA Program experts met with members of Malian Customs—including Mr. Amadou Konaté, Director General of Customs Mali, and other senior managers and agents from the country’s domestic services—to discuss the proposed action plan. The action plan was developed based on results of a risk management diagnostic questionnaire and was designed to address the seven priority areas for interventions identified by the customs administration for the modernization of its RAM system. 

Generally, the program-provided technical assistance will support the updating of the AGR strategy (in line with international standards and best practices in risk analysis and management). Specifically, this involves: 

  • Developing the strategy to cover anti-fraud, secure revenue, voluntary compliance, trade facilitation, and the policy of selectivity of controls in advance, during, and after customs clearance and customs intelligence. 
  • Developing the strategy to integrate modern concepts of controls, anti-fraud, and governance based on systemic quality assurance, voluntary compliance, and regional/international cooperation. 
  • Developing a multi-year strategic plan to operationalize the IGA with performance indicators in terms of risk analysis, control, facilitation of international trade and voluntary compliance of companies with customs regulations in Mali.

Over the course of the workshop, participants recommended several key next steps:

  • Schedule follow-up meetings between the customs technical services and the TFWA Program; 
  • Present the updated customs’ RAM strategy and diagnostic report in Mali; 
  • Conduct workshops to validate the reports and raise awareness of RAM performance; and 
  • Monitor, evaluate, and report on RAM implementation. 

 Risk management is an efficient way for customs administrations to drive interventions at the border, ensure effective compliance, and significantly improve performance in trade facilitation. The TFWA Program will support the Malian Customs Administration to implement the recommended next steps over the coming months. 

Program Trains Company Managers and Drivers on the Dakar-Bamako Corridor


March 2022

The TFWA Program hosted a series of training workshops in Bamako and Kayes, Mali to strengthen the managerial capacities of transport company managers. The workshops aimed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of carriers, drivers, and shippers related to loading techniques, road safety, and best practices. In total, 75 participants—including representatives of freight transport companies, the Malian Council of Road Carriers (CMTR), technical service of transport, and road transport unions—attended the sessions. 

The TFWA Program developed and implemented the training modules on transport company management. The modules focused on seven key areas: 

  1. Prevention and Road Risk: road risk on West African corridors: VECO formula (Vehicle, Environment, Driver, and Organization); transport safety precautions
  2. Cargo Handling and Securing Techniques: highway code and securing, general rules and responsibilities, law and securing, types and cases of control; unloading; general securing principles; specific securing requirements by type of cargo
  3. Resource Management in Transport
  4. Transport Company Environment
  5. Application of Management-Marketing Principles to Transport
  6. Application of the market research technique to transportation
  7. Practical Exercises (Case Studies): practical situations involving calculations and the choice of different securing methods; good practices in some transport companies 

In addition to the above, the training provided an opportunity to share materials for compiling texts relating to cross-border trade with technical services and professional organizations in the private sector and drivers’ unions. 

This activity is part of the implementation of the National Action Plan to Improve the Competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako corridor. In the coming weeks, the TFWA Program, with support from the National Monitoring Committee for Improving the Competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako corridor, will plan awareness-raising and communication activities to complement the training. 

TFWA Program Provides Customs with Equipment to Operationalize SIGMAT

September 2021

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In September, the TFWA Program provided computer equipment (PCAX8-2), software, and services to Malian Customs to support the operationalization of SIGMAT. A handover ceremony was held at the General Directorate of Customs in Bamako to mark the occasion. High-level stakeholders in attendance included representatives of Customs, the European Union, the World Bank Group, GIZ, and the Technical Unit for Business Climate Reforms.

Following speeches by representatives of GIZ and the Deputy Director General of Malian Customs, the equipment ownership documents were officially handed over to Customs. The equipment was appraised and accepted, starting an important new chapter for trade in and out of Mali.

SIGMAT is a Customs interconnection tool that uses information technology to facilitate trade, transport, and the free movement of goods across the region. The TFWA Program is supporting the SIGMAT rollout and will continue enhancing collaborations between stakeholders in the trade facilitation ecosystem. It also streamlines the movement of goods across various corridors in the region by providing digital, accurate information to Customs offices about cargo in transit from one state to another. The technology allows traders to exchange information with customs and other control agencies electronically. It uses risk-based assessments to limit physical inspections to only a small percentage of shipments, thus reducing customs clearance times.

GBM-GIZ Meets with Mali's Customs Brokers

August 2021


A tripartite meeting was held between freight forwarders, the World Bank, and GIZ on August 8, 2021 as part of the TFWA Program’s implementation of SIGMAT on Mali's service corridors. Under the chairmanship of Baba Traoré, the head of the Federation of Customs Agents, the agenda focused on two main points:

  1. Identifying issues noticed by freight forwarders related to the operationalization of SIGMAT; and
  2. Proposing support measures to reduce impacts on customs agent activities at the border.

To start the meeting, the president reiterated the benefits that will result from the implementation of SIGMAT. These include simplified procedures for Customs’ clearance of goods, improving costs and transit times. The SIGMAT system also creates more transparency and confidence between the public and private sectors while increasing gains on both sides.

Obvious challenges have been identified and relate to technical and practical issues in the transit of goods. Measures are underway at the Customs level to strengthen the capacity of freight forwarders by better equipping them to participate in the SIGMAT process. A communique is being drafted to Customs authorities to summarize the issues regarding the imminent operationalization of SIGMAT in Mali. The meeting also addressed the following topics:

  • A FETRAM mission will visit Burkina-Faso to learn from the experiences gained during the operationalization of SIGMAT on the Abidjan-Ouagadougou corridor;
  • The need to increase awareness and information on SIGMAT within the federation; and
  • The need to propose a technical note that clearly outlines the requirements and accompanying measures requested.

Feedback Workshop on the 44th Report of the Observatoire des Pratiques Anormales (OPA)

July 2021


On July 15, 2021, the 44th report on the Observation of Abnormal Practices (OPA) was presented in the conference room of the Conseil National du Patronat du Mali (CNPM). The workshop was chaired by Mr. Mama Djenepo, Secretary General of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure. The workshop was attended by representatives of the Ministries of Commerce and Internal Security, as well as by:

  • Customized departments and agencies of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure;
  • Representatives of professional associations;
  • A representative of the National Transition Council;
  • Representatives of technical and financial partners (GIZ and World Bank), and local authorities; and
  • Journalists and representatives of the Ministry of Security.

Following the discussion, some priorities were identified and key recommendations were made, namely:

  • Introducing facilitation missions on service corridors;
  • Creating large truck parking lots at the border crossings;
  • Associating the National Road Administration with OPA's operations;
  • Developing a national business case for decision making;
  • Numbering the checkpoints and security posts;
  • Raising drivers' awareness of community texts; and
  • Addressing road safety issues.

SIGMAT Training Held for Customs and Freight Forwarders in Mali

April 2021

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Training on the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT) was held for 145 customs officers and about 50 freight forwarders in Mali. The training began on March 29 and ended on April 10, lasting two weeks and taking place on two TFWA Program corridors—Dakar-Bamako (Kati-Kayes-Diboli) and Abidjan-Bamako (Bamako/Faladié- Sikasso-Zégoua).

In line with theTFWA Program’s objective to improve the efficient flow of trade on these corridors, this training allowed customs agents and freight forwarders from the main offices to become skilled and informed on the application of SIGMAT. Following this training effort, SIGMAT’s operationalization on these two service corridors is imminent.

Women-run Small Businesses Receive Skills Management Training on the Dakar-Bamako Corridor

March 2021

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From March 16 to March 18, GIZ hosted training sessions at the Regional Chamber of Commerce and in the multipurpose room of the Kayes City Hall in Mali. The objective of these trainings was to strengthen the managerial capacities of 100 women entrepreneurs (small traders) from the Dakar-Bamako corridor through the implementation of a training module in business management adapted to their needs and focused on accessing markets and financing.

Within the framework of the implementation of the ECOWAS Regional Program for Trade Facilitation, a partnership contract has been established between the Technical Unit for Business Climate Reforms (CTRCA), GIZ/TFWA Program, and APIX in Senegal to improve the business climate along the Dakar-Bamako corridor. A joint committee bringing together the Malian and Senegalese parties has been established to ensure the actions selected are properly implemented and to confirm that both parties’ commitments are fulfilled.

Among other things, the CTRCA is responsible for ensuring the effective and coherent implementation of the program’s action plan on the national level, and also for ensuring the support of all stakeholders from the government authorities, the private sector, and civil society. To this end, the CTRCA has agreed to carry out joint activities with the Project for the Formalization of Retail Trade Actors (PROFAC) to strengthen the managerial capacity of women entrepreneurs operating on the Dakar-Bamako corridor.

Malian Freight Forwarders and Customs Prepare SIGMAT Communications Campaign

March 2021

Family picture with Customs DG

In March, members of Malian Customs’ SIGMAT project team met with members of the Bureau of the National Federation of Freight Forwarders of Mali (FETRAM) to discuss the launch of a SIGMT Mali communications campaign. During the meeting, FETRAM offered to issue a manifest for SIGMAT operationalization to the Customs Directorate, confirming its commitment to trade facilitation and accompanying trade measures. For optimal cooperation, FETRAM also recommended that Customs further explain the SIGMAT mechanisms to forwarding agents in subsequent meetings.

The Regional Customs Network for Transit Trade—or SIGMAT, for short—is a Customs Interconnection Project that aims to use information technology to facilitate trade, transport, and the free movement of goods within the region.

It offers huge benefits to governments, financial institutions, and the private sector by paving the way for shared information, data in real time, reduced waiting times, and increased revenue thanks to reductions in transit and transportation costs.

The TFWA Program is exploring how to support communications efforts around SIGMAT and has agreed to help launch, promote, and publicize SIGMAT in Mali. The TFWA Program aims to build visibility and recognition of the SIGMAT project among decision-makers, economic operators, and the general public by supporting the implementation of a national communications plan. The program will also continue enhancing collaboration between stakeholders in the Malian trade facilitation ecosystem and looks forward to launching SIGMAT across additional markets in West Africa.

NTFC Mali Hosts its First Training Sessions on the Maturity Model

February 2021

Family picture with Customs DG

As part of the implementation of its work plan, in particular the component relating to the implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation, the TFWA Program has initiated discussions with the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) in Mali. These discussions led to the organization of five training sessions between December 11, 2020 and February 24, 2021. These sessions are the first since the establishment of the NTFC-Mali by Inter-ministerial Order N-0934/MCC/MEF/MT-SG of April 5, 2009.

All five sessions focused on presenting the TFWA Program’s Maturity Model and the self-evaluation of NTFC-Mali based on that Maturity Model. Three virtual sessions, facilitated remotely by the TFWA Program, focused on the presentation of the Maturity Model, its stages, and the technicalities of the self-assessment. The two face-to-face trainings were focused on the practical exercise of the NTFC self-assessment. These two sessions took place at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment Promotion on February 17 and 18, 2021.

The workshops aimed to support the NTFC-Mali by:

  1. Identifying a benchmark of progress in relation to its level of maturity;
  2. Supporting the operationalization of its mandate through the conception and development of an action plan; and
  3. Regularly monitoring the progress of the maturity level.

The training was attended by all NTFC members, including a Ministry of Women representative.

It was highly appreciated by the audience and enabled participants to:

  • Assess the founding text of the NTFC-Mali in relation to standard and good practices in this area;
  • Propose corrective actions so that the NTFC-Mali can meet the standards, in particular: the clarification of the mandate of the Permanent Secretariat, the constitution of the NTFC’s working groups, the inclusion of gender CSOs, and the creation of an exchange link between the AfCFTA and Doing Business; and
  • Assess the level of effort to be provided at each stage of the Maturity Model.

The next steps are:

  • Consolidate the NTFC-Mali self-assessment report and transmit it to the TFWA Program;
  • Develop and enact new text incorporating the proposed corrective actions for NTFC-Mali;
  • Develop an action plan, which is validated and assessed; and
  • Draft an annual activity program, including the provision of technical assistance needed to operationalize and strengthen the NTFC in Mali.

Training of Trainers on SIGMAT Underway

December 2020

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From November 30 to December 4, 2020, the training of trainers on the Interconnected Management System of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT) was held in the meeting room of the general directorate of customs of Mali. The training was attended by many directors including the customs deputy director, customs administration central directors and customs staff, presidents of the freight forwarders associations of Mali, and the president of the Mali customs union.

Hosted in Bamako, the main objective of the workshops was to provide adequate training to around twenty customs technicians that will then be responsible for building capacity of Malian customs staff throughout the country. The ultimate goal is to use these trained ambassadors to make SIGMAT operational in all goods transit and destination offices.

By the end of this first training session, attendees obtained extensive knowledge of SIGMAT and the application system for computer agents and system technicians.

This will allow the customs administrators to:

  • Share information and data in real time;
  • Improve waiting times;
  • Increase revenue by reducing transit and transport costs;
  • Increase customs revenues; and
  • Facilitate and secure international trade.

The next step will be to extend the training to other customs officers throughout the country. This next stage will build capacity with customs agents and customs brokers at the main pilot sites prior to the launch of SIGMAT on the Bamako-Dakar and Bamako-Abidjan corridors. Looking forward, these sites include the towns of Diboly, Kayes, and Kati on the Dakar-Bamako corridor, and Zégoua, Sikasso, and Bamako/Faladié on the Abidjan-Bamako corridor.

Dakar-Bamako logistics strategy presented

November 2020

Family picture with Customs DG

Following the inaugural meeting of the National Monitoring Committee (NAC) in February, The TFWA Program convened a workshop with Senegalese and Malian project partners to present the Dakar-Bamako Logistics Strategy. The strategy used a data-driven approach to reveal the underlying flow and pattern of goods along this important trade corridor. Additionally, the strategy outlined how infrastructure could be developed to support and improve trade flow. In fact, previous TFWA Program diagnostics, such as the Corridor Assessment Report and the Small-Scale Cross-Border Trader Survey, had highlighted how longer transit times along corridors greatly affect trade facilitation and economic opportunities.

Aware of the key regional and national issues at stake with improved infrastructure, both Mali and Senegal were receptive to the TFWA Program’s presentation and findings. As a result, these markets could explore reopening discussions on the location of the dry port. This strategy, if jointly applied, could enable more targeted and cohesive infrastructural planning and reforms—progress in line with the TFWA Program’s second component, which stives to promote the efficient and improved movement of goods along selected corridors.

Bilateral Meeting Brings Together Key Stakeholders from Mali and Senegal

February 2020

Family picture with Customs DG

From February 17 to 20, the TFWA Program hosted a successful bilateral meeting between IT experts from Senegalese and Malian customs to advance activities required for the Interconnection of their IT systems (SIGMAT-GAINDE). Held in Dakar, representatives from the Senegal and Mali Management Committee of the Dakar-Bamako Corridor participated in the four-day session, as did Senegal’s Customs Director General. Representatives from the Chambers of Commerce from both Mali and Senegal were also invited to attend, though only one representative from Mali came to the meetings.

Opening ceremonyBoth customs IT teams have been proactively supporting implementation, using a chronogram of activities to guide their work. During the meeting, attendees discussed these activities in an effort to advance the interconnection agenda. The meeting also provided an opportunity to show that GIZ and the World Bank are working jointly to implement this project.

Looking forward, GIZ and the World Bank will continue to work together to ensure proper support under the TFWA Program umbrella. As next steps, based on their chronograms, customs in both countries need to provide formation, communication, and sensitization efforts to field staff. Per the current situation, the customs agencies are trying to deliver these efforts virtually. Additionally, GIZ is responsible for delivering the equipment required in support of this effort.

Dakar-Bamako Corridor Project Action Plan Moves Forward with TFWA Program Support

February 2020

Untitled3On February 7, the first meeting of the National Monitoring Committee for the ‘Improving the Competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako Corridor Project’—a project that falls within the framework of the TFWA Program—took place. The meeting focused on reviewing and validating the joint committee's plan of action while also planning priority activities arising from the plan.

A number of influential stakeholders attended the meeting, including representatives from the Ministry of Investment Promotion Private, Small and Medium Enterprises, and National Entrepreneurship. The meeting provided an opportunity for attendees to outline deadlines for each activity to be implemented. As a result of this meeting, some of the activities listed in the work plan were reformulated, paving a clear path for implementation. Additionally, meeting participants agreed to insert a new activity—relating to the ECOWAS brown map—into the work plan. Meeting attendees agreed that the TFWA Program team would serve as the plan’s next reviewer, with a view to inserting activities from its Dakar-Bamako corridor action plan.