Côte d’Ivoire tackles NTMs with trade obstacles alert
Assahouré N’Goran used to wait six months to get the weight certificate required to export cocoa beans to Belgium. Since June 2014, his waiting time has dropped to just two weeks.
‘Having the certificates issued quickly makes a huge difference for us,’ says N’Goran, Shipping Manager of Outspan Ivoire, a local subsidiary of agribusiness giant Olam International. ‘It increases our competitiveness and will lead to higher exports. What is good for our company is good for employment and the growth of Côte d’Ivoire.’
Most such NTMs are very simple to address once they are identified, says Kouakou Germain Yao, Director of Studies and Economic Information at Côte d’Ivoire’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ‘All it takes is to bring in the private sector, so that the problems can be identified,’ he says.
N’Goran reported the issue through the country’s Trade Obstacles Alert service, an online tool put in place by ITC in 2014 following the completion of the country’s first-ever NTM survey. In the survey, nearly three-quarters of the 600 participating companies said they faced non-tariff barriers to trade, significantly higher than the 55% average in the over 25 countries surveyed by ITC.
The companies saw NTMs as barriers particularly in regional markets. One of the biggest challenges identified was the delivery of certificates of origin for export to neighbouring countries. Most procedures are lengthy and susceptible to malpractice, the survey found. Lack of knowledge about the procedures and the agencies in charge of them pose additional challenges for exporting companies, which also complained about a lack of transparency in regulations.
In response to these findings, the government requested that ITC set up the alert service, so officials can learn first-hand about the hurdles faced by the business community and address the concerns.
‘This tool is instrumental in helping policymakers to develop programmes and reforms suitable to increase the competitiveness of Ivoirian exporters,’ says Gomun Kouya, Director of Export Promotion and Assistance at the Ministry of Trade. Twenty-four obstacles have been reported since the launch of the service in the summer of 2014, ranging from lack of storage facilities and border points to incorrect customs valuations on exported products. Five had been resolved including the one reported by N’Goran.
Previously, only the president of the Chamber of Commerce was authorized to sign weight certificates, which are required for all exports of cocoa beans, the country’s largest export item. Depending on his availability, the certificates can often take a long time to arrive. Following the identification of the problem through the new platform, another official was also given the authority to issue the certificates.
Various government agencies and TISIs are addressing the remaining 19 obstacles identified, Yao says. Following the launch of the tool, the government passed a decree mandating its agencies to use the platform and tackle the reported problems.
‘This mechanism will allow us to facilitate our trade by signalling the difficulties we encounter and from which we suffer,’ says Daihi Fatoumata, sales manager of the Société de Culture Bananière, a large exporter of bananas and pineapples.
The Trade Obstacles Alert system was put in place in Côte d’Ivoire as part of the ITC Trade Support and Regional Integration Programme (PACIR), financed by the European Union.
This article is a part of ITC's SME Competitiveness Outlook 2015.