Story: ITC trade obstacles alert tool signal’s incorrect export procedure in Benin (en)
As Mr. Max Hountchegnon was finalising procedures to export his fresh pineapples from Benin to Niger, he received an unusual demand from the country’s customs office to provide a certificate of origin for his produce. This went against standard procedures he had followed in the past and he was unable to provide the document.
Hountchegnon decided to report the issue through the national trade obstacles tool to seek guidance and support from trade institutions in the country. Once they received the alert, the Chamber of Commerce of Benin sought to take immediate action.
Hountchegnon was informed, the request from the customs officials was in fact an error in the procedure, since in the case of fresh pineapples no certificate of origin is required for export. “The TOAM is a tool that is beneficial for all. We as national institutions cannot be present on all fronts and sharing the right information for example by phone, at the exact moment is sometimes hard because of connectivity,” said Mr. Yessoufou Razack, National focal point of the TOAM from the Benin National Chamber of Commerce.
The institutions clarified to Hountchegnon the certificate of origin should only be requested from exporters of processed pineapple and not producers of fresh pineapples. “Even though it took two years to resolve the obstacle I faced, I am happy I was given a response and was able to raise awareness on the difficulty I faced as a small enterprise to a higher level of the institutional system,” he said.
With this information, Hountchegnon used the response he received from the National focal point at the Chamber of commerce as proof that no certificate of origin was required to export his produce across West Africa.
“The TOAM tool is helpful to get a sense of national business environment and how other institutions such as in this case the customs office need to be well aware of what is required and what is not. Without the tool, situations like this only weaken the national business industry of Benin,” said Razack.
After cotton and cashew nut, pineapple has been a major export product for Benin since 2016, with the value of export growth rising to 33% between 2015 and 2019. The Trade Obstacles Alert Mechanism (TOAM) tool is being used across West Africa to identify obstacles in trade and ease trade facilitation approaches in the region as part of the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP).