As the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) prepares for a future without its service providers, collaboration amongst stakeholders has been identified as key to the successful implementation of the single window environment, a system on which its future processes would be based. It is a concept aimed at reducing the time and cost of cross- border trade whilst introducing transparency and predictability into the international trade supply chain.
Although its stakeholders cut across the private and public sectors, it must be noted that the private sector is the ultimate user and beneficiary of the system, while the public sector are the providers of the services.
In preparation for the journey ahead, a number of collaborative sensitisation and awareness programmes have been organised and a trade hub portal have been designed by the Nigerian Customs Service(NCS) to prepare stakeholders and all Nigerians for migration to the new system of doing import, export and transit- related businesses in Nigeria.
No doubt what is crucially needed to achieve this transition is a change management because with any system shift, change management is required. There has to be a paradigm shift from the norm to a more effective environment and with corruption being the major issue that the new system seeks to eliminate with the reduction of human contact points and introduction of IT systems to block leakages, some level of resistance ordinarily would be anticipated.
Experiences world over have shown that introducing new system, particularly automated systems, is usually faced with resistance, but interestingly, in the case of Nigeria, stakeholder groups have been very receptive and supportive of the concept, thanks to the various awareness programmes showcasing the benefits inherent in the concept.
There are instances where the implementation of single window environment around the world had been met with a mixed bag of outcomes. Countries with tales of successful implementation of the concept such as Thailand, Senegal and Singapore, were countries which have had a national drive which translated into political will backed with the necessary awareness creation to get the stakeholders’ buy-in.
According to experts, the first step towards implementing the single window environment in a country begins with a national agenda which translates to a national mandate for the implementation of single window environment. The next significant step is to mobilise all stakeholders on how to conduct international trade. There also has to be stakeholders’ collaboration at all levels with this being the thrust between the public and private sectors.
Furthermore, building in-country capacity is important to be able to drive, manage and sustain the environment eventually. Also, drawing from the experience of countries that have successfully and totally taken ownership of the environment, organically growing the single window from within has some benefits. A study of such countries showed that after getting the legal backing, the political will and national drive to implement the concept, they invest a lot into empowering all the users. Both the public and private sectors are to be able to effectively manage the system.
In Nigeria, some of such collaborative workshops organised by the NCS includes the national single window stakeholder conference held at the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College, Auditorium Gwagwalada, with the theme: “Collaboration -Towards a Facilitated Trade Environment.” The event was organised in collaboration with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and supported by the WCO, UNECE, ECOWAS and UNECA –ATPC.
The high level conference was aimed at increasing the knowledge of representatives from government agencies as well as private sector stakeholders on a number of issues which were critical to successfully establishing a Single Window environment in Nigeria.
Participants in the conference included policy makers, government officials, business managers, analysts, service providers, representatives of international agencies working in the field of trade facilitation, the academia as well as experts in trade and e- Business.
The delegates were taken through the general framework and institutional arrangements for Single Window, best practices and country case studies, international standards for trade facilitation. Other topics included information exchange in global trade, state- of- the- art management concepts for Single Window planning and implementation, even as they also had the opportunity to share experiences and lessons learned and also to exchange views.
The Conference was also followed by a 3-day high level capacity building workshop for participants on business process analysis & data modelling and the change management and stakeholder engagement aspects of paperless trade and Single Window.
A similar 2-day conference titled: “Single Window Business Process Analysis Workshop,’’ was also held by the NCS in September 2012, at the Customs Command and Service Staff College, Gwagwalada, Abuja as part of the Service’s collaborative efforts to achieve the Single Window concept.
The Single window business process analysis workshop was organised for stakeholders involved in the international trade supply chain. The workshop focused on verifying and validating the processes gathered and documented during the Gap Analysis Study and aided the forum to discuss areas of improvement to be considered for collaborative harmonisation and streamlining efforts.
Apart from these, there have also been a series of sessions organised to gather and document business processes across the stakeholder groups and also to understand the ICT readiness and organisational needs of these stakeholders.
Technical working groups have also been set up in the areas of business process analysis, ICT, change management and stakeholder engagement and legal framework. This is to ensure that this would be a system that would organically grow across all the stakeholder groups and be able to achieve a target vision of the single window environment.
Speaking on the side-lines of one of the stakeholders’ conferences on single window, the Minister of State Finance, Yerima Ngama, commended the management of the Service and its technical staff who were expertly handling the migration from the ASYCUDA system and upgrading to the Single Window portal.
He specifically commended the Service technical staff handling the ASYCUDA system for exhibiting such expertise that resulted in the upgrading to Single Window, bringing the Service at par with its counterparts world over.