African governments have been urged to adopt information and communications technology (ICT) to revolutionise all aspects of their economic activities to enhance their development.
According to the Senior Manager in charge of Business Development at CrimsonLogic at the Port of Singapore, Mr Lim Chee Boon, apart from adopting ICT to solve many problems, a strong political will was also required to ensure change in business processes within the African region.
Mr Boon, who spoke to the Daily Graphic on the sidelines of a seminar on Single Window (SW) and Port Community Systems (PCS) in Cotonou, Benin, indicated that while it was important for countries to deploy single windows in the trade facilitation chain, the platform was not a magic tool that could solve every challenge in the trade process.
The programme, which was organised by the Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), in partnership with member ports from West and Central Africa, had representatives from 15 of the 20 member countries, as well as representatives from the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) and West Blue Consulting (WBC). Technical partners for Ghana’s national single window also participated in the event aimed at encouraging member countries to adopt the use of single windows in port operations.
Mr Boon maintained that with the changing face of global trade, it behoved the environment to be receptive to change such that solutions could be customised to the needs of customers.
As such, political systems and policies, he said, ought to be properly checked to address loopholes in trade chains which could ultimately reduce revenue leakages.
“Single windows should not be about a change in business process rather political function has to change, since that is required to sustain a single window. A full end-to-end solution is key,” Mr Boon said.
“The internal environment’s readiness and people’s readiness to accept change is key if reforms in trade chains are to be successful”, Mr Boon maintained.
Commenting on the country experiences shared by Togo, Benin and Cameroon at the programme, Mr Boon pointed out that while those countries had their own unique conditions and challenges, it was important that they continued to adapt and improve the technology and processes to stay relevant.
Singapore, he said, had operated the single window for more than 28 years, and “it is an evolving process, since things keep changing, so overtime, we continue to develop so as to conform to standards and best practices”, he said.
“Ghana’s illustration is very interesting and it is clear throughout the conference that implementing such system is not an easy task,” he said.
Port Community Systems
Sharing the example of Singapore, he said it started its trade facilitation processes in 1986 but only launched a trade-net system in 1989 for the trading community to submit permit applications electronically to the relevant government bodies for processing and approval. Mr Boon stressed the need for member ports within the PMAWCA Zone to adopt the use of PCSs in their operations because it provided a better interface to the operations of single windows.
The PCS, he said, facilitated business to government (B2G) and business to business (B2B) information exchange, paperless processing, increasing staff productivity and savings in cost and effort for all stakeholders.
“A major advantage of the PCS is that it provides real-time information to support operational decision making and also uses historical data to analyse operational trend,” Mr Boon indicated.
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