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.
NEWS & EVENTS
TFWA Program Strengthens NTFC Capacity in Niger
The Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program continues to strengthen the capacities of NTFCs to improve trade facilitation reform implementation across the region.
In Niger, the TFWA Program supported the NTFC on the 2023 iteration of its annual self-assessment. Based on the TFWA Maturity Model, the self-assessment has made it possible to define priority, results-based activities. It has also enhanced the need to strengthen the NTFC’s strategic planning capacity through the adoption and maintenance of a transparent inter-sectoral coordination and monitoring tool.
At the same time, the TFWA Program has supported the Nigerien NTFC through an integrated technical assistance sequence:
- Assessing its needs to meet WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement requirements (in 2020 and 2021);
- Elaborating with NTFC working group Category C action plans and notifying their definitive implementation dates (in 2022); and
- Identifying the ministerial indicators impacting trade facilitation results (in 2022).
The NTFC Niger has identified the need to develop a strategic planning tool that will allow it to monitor the implementation of the agreement.
Recently, the TWFA Program helped the committee develop a consolidated monitoring and evaluation dashboard to keep track of the sequential and inter-sectoral progress necessary to comply with WTO notification commitments. This consolidated dashboard gathers all the activities, tasks, assigned responsibilities, expected results, and indicators for each of the Category C technical measures. The dashboard aims to facilitate the NTFC’s work, particularly the coordination of technical working groups, the precise monitoring of sectoral responsibilities, progress in the implementation of priority tasks, and the preparation of quarterly NTFC monitoring reports to be presented to the supervisory authorities (to determine progress, difficulties, and the priorities for the next quarter).
In February, the dashboard was presented at the NTFC’s first meeting of the year. It was well received by NTFC members, who appreciated the tool’s versatility and user-friendly format. After the meeting, two working sessions were organized by the TFWA Program in collaboration with the NTFC secretariat. In the coming months, the TFWA Program will support the Secretariat and NTFC leadership to complete the tool and to systematically adopt reforms planning and coordination processes in accordance with the national mandate and commitments toward the WTO and the AfCFTA.
TFWA Provides NTFC with Devices to Facilitate TF Reforms
The TFWA Program presented portable USB dongles (and data/SIM packages) to NTFC members in Niger. The branded devices ensure NTFC members stay connected, fully participate in online training, and effectively implement trade facilitation reforms. Additionally, the data packages reduce expenses on space and equipment rental to conduct meetings.
The TFWA Program recognizes the vital role of NTFCs in the national coordination of trade facilitation reforms, including engaging public and private stakeholders to address trade bottlenecks and simplifying trade procedures. The devices will ensure NTFCs fulfill their mandate and adapt to virtual modalities. Following the successful rollout in Niger, the TFWA Program plans to provide connectivity to other NTFCs across the region.
Niger’s NTFC launches reform planning exercise
Niger has made significant progress in the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) provisions, with support from the TFWA Program. For context, the TFA spearheads a global effort to improve trade efficiency, reduce trade costs, increase transparency, and encourage the adoption of new technologies. Developing and the least-developed countries may require help to implement the provisions of the TFA and evaluate their ability to implement by selecting one of three categories (Category A, B or C) for each of the agreement’s provisions.
Recently, the Nigerien National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) organized an intensive planning exercise for the implementation of Category C of the WTO TFA—this indicates provisions that require additional time, as well as technical and financial assistance, to be implemented.
The NTFC members worked in groups following three main themes:
- Transparency and information;
- Interagency cooperation and coordination; and
- Customs and transit.
Under each theme, the working groups reviewed results to be obtained under each Category C commitment of the TFA, and developed key activities to achieve those results. During the session, the TFWA Program experts also re-examined existing synergies between the trade facilitation provisions of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the WTO TFA. At the end of the meeting, the NTFC members agreed to establish a detailed road map with time frames for TFA implementation.
Nigerien NTFC Trained in Inclusive Project Management
In West Africa, National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) play a pivotal role in advancing trade facilitation and logistics policy reforms. To effectively fulfill their mandate and enhance operational sustainability, the TFWA Program provides technical and capacity building support to equip NTFCs across the region with tools to advocate relevant technical recommendations and effectively influence the government reform agenda related to cross-border trade.
Recently, the TFWA Program organized a capacity building workshop on Inclusive Project Management in Niamey. The two-day, virtual session was designed to provide members of the Nigerien NTFC with the requisite project management tools for the planning and implementation of trade facilitation reforms. During the interactive session, participants learned the following curriculum / modules: fundamental concepts and principles of project management, reasons for success and failure of projects, and tools for effective and inclusive stakeholder engagement. Training participants found the workshop very helpful—they said it strongly contributed to their understanding of the value of gender and inclusive application in project development, implementation, and evaluation.
Upon completion of the training, Nigerien NTFC members plan to apply the preparatory steps and tools to communicate their definitive dates for the implementation of the TFA Category C commitments to the World Trade Organization while also developing project proposals in the area of trade facilitation.
Team Niger Participates in AfCFTA Strategy Validation
From July 1 to 2, the Niger Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Youth Entrepreneurship—in collaboration with TFWA Program and with support from the European Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa—organized a two-day workshop to present and validate the national The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) strategy. The strategy identifies priority actions to be undertaken by the Nigerien government to effectively realize the potential benefits of the AfCFTA.
The sessions were held virtually and attended by the TFWA Program team, trade policy experts, and representatives from development partners, including USAID and EU. During the sessions, the TFWA Program supported the country’s AfCFTA National Committee to ensure the implementation of ongoing project activities aligns with the overarching goal of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the AfCFTA.
AfCFTA, the largest free-trade agreement for participating countries, works to reshape Africa’s economy by creating job opportunities, facilitating investment, and boosting trade across the continent. The AfCFTA also reduces non-tariff barriers (or ‘red tape’) and other trade barriers that restrict access to market, especially for women, who constitute the majority of informal cross-border traders in Africa and are vulnerable to harassment, abuse, and violence through their work. To fully utilize the opportunities of the AfCFTA, governments must direct efforts to identify key trade opportunities, current constraints, and the steps required to take full advantage of intra-African trade.
TFWA Supports Niger Customs in Validating the MACC Action Plan
Within the framework of the Mutual Assistance and Customs Cooperation Agreement (MACC) project, the Customs Directorate of Niger, with support from the TFWA Program, validated the action plan for the operationalization of the Supplementary Act—a key regional tool for customs cooperation and an enforcement instrument to guide and enable the flow of information and related cooperation activities between customs administrations, the ECOWAS Commission, and Nigeria. The plan highlights two trade facilitating reforms: improving customs cooperation and risk management and the program’s role in supporting the country’s fulfillment of its WTO TFA obligations on risk management, expedited shipments, pre-arrival processing, and customs cooperation.
Plans are underway to begin implementation. TFWA’s program lead in Niger is working with Directors of Nigerien Customs to complete a baseline assessment and proposal to provide technical assistance for improving the Nigerien risk analysis and management system, which is currently under review by Nigerien Customs.
The three other pilot countries—Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso—have also validated their action plans and will commence implementation.
New Decree Makes Nigerien NTFC More Inclusive and Ambitious
In December 2020, the Nigerien ministers of finance and commerce updated the joint decree on the founding of Niger’s National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC). The updated decree follows international best practices and introduces several institutional changes to the NTFC. The decree was developed in close cooperation with the TFWA Program, which is very glad to see the improvements realized.
The updated decree widens the trade consultation body’s membership to include more representatives from civil society and the private sector (for example, airport and dry port operators). The decree also expands membership to the gender ministry and to female trader representatives. Structurally, the decree reshapes the NTFC into strategic and technical committees and several working groups, including a sub-committee on trade and gender.
Based on the upgraded degree, the Nigerien NTFC and the TFWA Program team have already held initial meetings on the composition of the trade and gender working group. The two partners also hosted a small-scale cross-border trade (SSCBT) socialization workshop to help the NTFC formulate its SSCBT support agenda. The NTFC also organized a TFWA Maturity Model workshop, where the NTFC’s institutional self-evaluation was validated and further steps for development were agreed upon.
The TFWA Program will continue working closely with the Nigerien NTFC. The program wishes Niger success and hopes the upgraded decree will cement its international reputation as a trade champion.
National Approval Committee members in Cabo Verde, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, and Togo strengthen their skills on ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme approval procedures
The TFWA Program supported the ECOWAS Commission Directorate of Customs Union and Taxation (DCUT) to organize a virtual training on ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) approval procedures. The workshops targeted National Approval Committee (NAC) members in in Cabo Verde (5th to 9th October) Guinea (12th to 14th October), Burkina Faso (15th, 16th and 19th October), Benin, Niger, and Togo (9th to 13th November). In total, 102 people completed the workshops, including participants from the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Regional Integration, Ministry of Finance, Customs Directorate, the Chamber of Commerce and National Export Promotion Body.
One objective of these nine workshops was to strengthen the functioning of the NACs by training their members on the ETLS mechanism. At the same time, the workshops aimed to provide ECOWAS Member States with a good number of trained ETLS resource people to facilitate activities, raise awareness, and train the national business community on ETLS, with a particular emphasis on highlighting the advantages of the scheme and the criteria for approval of companies and products.
The workshops allowed NAC members to master the ETLS mechanism, ensuring that a good number of ETLS resource persons are available in each trained ECOWAS Member State. Through these workshops, the approval process will be facilitated at the national level and the timeline for approval will be drastically reduced. Trainees will lead national awareness, information, and capacity building activities on the ETLS mechanism in order to strengthen regional integration in the ECOWAS region. As a result, the TFWA Program hopes to see a significant increase in the number of submissions of applications for approval to the scheme from these countries. Following the workshops, trainee-led national activities will also strengthen regional ETLS integration in the ECOWAS region.
Niger appoints NTFC Permanent Secretary following TFWA Program advice
In May, the Minister of Commerce and the Private Sector of Niger appointed Mme Khamed Salamatou Mahamadou as the Permanent Secretary of the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC). Prior to the appointment, Mme Mahamadou served as the Head of the External Commerce Division at the Ministry of Commerce. A career commerce ministry staff member and a longtime expert on the trade facilitation portfolio, she also has a graduate degree in project management, making her an ideal candidate for the job – ensuring dynamic institutional development of Niger’s NTFC.
The appointment of a dedicated secretary to the National Trade Facilitation Committee, which is co-chaired by the Ministry of Commerce and the Directorate General of Customs, is one of the institutional development steps that the TFWA Program team advised the government of Niger to take. The NTFC chairs also agreed with the TFWA team’s proposal to assign a budget line for NTFC activities. Further, they agreed to upgrade the founding decree, ensuring comprehensive representation of all relevant state agencies, as well as the private sector and civil society organizations.
We wish Mme Salamatou and the Nigerien NTFC the best of luck in their endeavors and look forward to hearing further good news from Niger regarding the institutional development of its NTFC.
Customs Authority Training Helps Advance TFWA Program Objectives in Niger
On February 26 and 27, the TFWA Program and Niger’s customs authority and conducted a two-day training for Nigerien customs officers. The training focused on the new ECOWAS customs code, aiming to improve understanding and adoption within the authority.
Twenty-five customs officers from the Nigerian customs authority attended the training, which was spearheaded by the ECOWAS Commission and opened by a representative of the director general of customs. During the two-day session, the officers were informed that as the region moves toward achieving a customs union, ECOWAS Member States have adopted the Community Customs Code—a document adopted under the guidance of the ECOWAS Commission, in line with the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the revised Kyoto Convention. The customs code includes major regulatory changes that consider the evolution of customs procedures in response to new requirements around international trade. The ECOWAS Customs code is also meant to: i) enable the community to harmonize the coordinated management of its borders; ii) ensure the uniform and coherent enforcement of regional rules across the community customs territory; and iii) provide customs administrations of ECOWAS Member States the opportunity to improve their procedures and promote regional cooperation.
The training covered a number of relevant and timely topics, including: control of goods, inspection of travelers and their luggage, rights and obligations of persons under the customs legislation, decisions on the application of customs laws, customs officer powers, pre-clearance formalities and clearance operations, verification of declaration and customs controls, payment and repayment of duties and taxes, release and removal of goods, customs debt and customs debt guarantees, state warehouses, priority operations, free circulation procedures and re-importation in the same state, customs procedures with economic impact, trade and industrial activities, and the free zone.
TFWA Program Improves Understanding of Trade Key Agreements in Niger
On February 24, the ECOWAS Commission, Borderless Alliance, the Nigerien Ministry of Trade and Private Sector Promotion, and Niger’s Chamber of Commerce organized a one-day sensitization workshop under the TFWA Program umbrella.
The workshop focused on the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), aiming to inform the private sector of the implications of both agreements. In total, 66 people attended the event, comprised of representatives from the private sector, public sector, media, and donor organizations.
The event was declared open by a representative from the Ministry of Trade and Private Sector Promotion, while key addresses were delivered by the ECOWAS Commission, the European Union, GIZ, and the president of Nigerien Chamber of Commerce. In an effort to notify the private sector, these presentations highlighted that Niger ratified the TFA and submitted its categorized trade facilitation commitments to the WTO. Further, it was noted that Niger is one of the ECOWAS Member States that has already signed and ratified the ACFTA agreement.
Following the presentations, private sector participants believed that the agreements would make trade easier and more transparent. With that said, it was recommended that the government consider palliative measures to support the private sector, to mitigate any potential negative effects. Participants also advocated for more consultation and private sector involvement in trade negotiations, since the private sector ultimately feels the effect of any trade policy. Looking forward, the group agreed that further consultations with the private sector were needed, as one day was not sufficient to understand the full implications and meaning of both agreements.
TFWA Program Border Mission to Malanville-Gaya Joint Border Post Looks into Border Management
From February 24 to 28, the TFWA Program team visited Niamey and the Benin-Niger border (Malanville-Gaya Joint Border Post). The mission aimed to identify and evaluate border management issues in Niger, both at the headquarters level and on the ground. While on mission, the team field-tested a new comprehensive questionnaire developed by the program to evaluate border management and trade facilitation in Niger.
The TFWA Program team spent three days at the border, interviewing customs and other agencies with a presence at the border post (including frontier police, sanitary and phytosanitary services, water and forests protection, and health and fire protection). The team also interviewed Koumate and Kotcha park managers, private border management contractors, and the senior management of the Malanville Joint Border Post. In Niamey, the team interviewed senior officials at the Directorate-General of Customs and Directorate-General of Waters and Forests, as well as freight forwarders. The team was supported by the Malanville Joint Border Post administrator and other cooperating counterparts, which helped the TFWA Program advance its goals in the region.
At the end of the mission, the team concluded that existing joint border management could be significantly improved. Specifically, the team identified the need for enhanced communication and coordination, simultaneous presence and inspections, and the presence of respective National Trade Facilitation Committees. The team also documented very poor Internet connectivity, unstable electricity provisions, low computerization of border agencies, and the poor condition of trucks and parts of the highway. Also, the team concluded that border procedures for small-scale and cross-border traders could be further simplified and streamlined in Niger.
Based on the issues identified, the mission issued specific recommendations to UEMOA, which manages the Malanville Joint Border Post and to the governments of Niger and Benin. As a next step, the border management questionnaire tested during the mission will be adapted and improved for other border missions.
TFWA Program Supports NTFC Institutional Anchoring and Compliance in Niger
Following activities held in November 2019, the TFWA Program hosted a three-day workshop in Niamey from January 27 to 31, 2020. The workshop aimed to support Niger’s National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) in strengthening its institutional anchoring and operational capacities, with a focus on assisting the NTFC to meet its World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) obligations. The mission assisted the NTFC in preparing timely notifications to the WTO, which were due by February 22, 2020.
To achieve this, the TFWA Program team hosted bilateral discussions with the chair and vice-chair of the NTFC, the NTFC Secretariat, and the minister special adviser to the president, who oversees national strategy related to cross-border trade and continental trade integration. During these meetings, the program team discussed institutional strengthening of the NTFC and the upcoming notification deadlines due to the WTO. Existing synergies between the WTO TFA, the African Continental Free Trade Area, and World Bank Doing Business reform packages were highlighted, and, consequently, need to adopt sustainable mechanisms to translate political commitments and action points into operational reforms. In the meeting, the TFWA Program team recommended that the Nigerien authorities consolidate the rationalization of resources and coherence of decision-making processes between these three packages.
Following the TFWA Program workshop, Niger’s NTFC established a coordinated work schedule to build NTFC capacities around TFA-related activities planning and also successfully finalized the Category B notifications due at end of February. For context, notifications were required for the definitive implementation dates of Category B measures—TFA provisions that can be met autonomously, without the assistance of development partners.
Looking forward, the TFWA Program will provide continuous support to the NTFC to develop results-based technical assistance requirements, working in cooperation with the International Trade Centre, which is growing capacity on the ground with an onboarded TFWA Program country focal point and an NTFC support expert joining the team soon.