Adoption expected to strengthen agricultural trade
Nigeria has held a formal launch to mark the beginning of a major new trade facilitation initiative to bolster the country’s strategic ambitions to grow its agricultural export sector.
The adoption of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) ePhyto Solution will enable the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates, or ePhytos, with major trading partners through a central hub, quickly, accurately and at low cost.
The new system will replace the current manual procedures that involve duplicative paperwork and multiple trips for exporters to the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), the country’s National Plant Protection Office (NPPO).
At present, it can take up to two weeks to obtain a phytosanitary certificate – end-to-end electronic exchange is projected to reduce this dramatically, bringing considerable time and cost savings.
Welcoming the initiative, NAQS Comptroller General Dr. Vincent Isegbe said: “By adopting the ePhyto system in Nigeria, we are taking a giant stride towards aligning our processes with international standards, fostering collaboration with our global counterparts, and positioning Nigeria as a key player in the global agricultural arena.”
In partnership with the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT), The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (the Alliance) will support NAQS in transitioning to electronic exchange. Initially, this project will focus on southwestern Nigeria, covering five states responsible for 50% of the country’s agricultural exports, before its extension to the remainder of the country.
This project is the first collaboration between ICDT and the Alliance since both parties signed a formal partnership agreement in 2022. The Alliance is supporting the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, through NAQS, global and local businesses and their representative organisations in implementing and transitioning to the new system, which is scheduled to go live in 2024.
The Alliance is also working closely with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, the government body with overall responsibility for trade facilitation. The ministry will foster private sector engagement, provide strategic guidance, as well as logistical support and networking opportunities.
The project will entail technical and change management initiatives, including the installation of IT equipment, extensive training of NAQS staff and exporters and an awareness-raising campaign, providing information on the benefits of the new system and inviting business to use it.
Ms Jovita C. Iroemeh, National President of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs/ Business Owners said: “We welcome the initiative and would like to emphasise the need to include women-owned businesses in the activities and trainings.”
The Alliance’s Gender Mainstreaming Guidelines serve as a blueprint for tackling structural inequalities experienced by women, emphasising the importance of sensitising its work to be as inclusive as possible. Female participation in public private dialogues has increased by 30% since the 2021 introduction of mainstreaming guidelines in all Alliance projects.
Around 36% of the estimated 221 million people living in Nigeria earn a living in agriculture but despite significant expansion in recent years, the sector contributes less than 3% of total exports. Streamlining agricultural trade by introducing electronic phytosanitary exchange has a massive potential to improve livelihoods, food security, and national income.
Addressing the event remotely, Alliance Director Philippe Isler outlined the considerable expertise it had gained in supporting countries to adopt the IPPC ePhyto Solution through public private partnership.
“As has been the case with the other countries that have introduced the IPPC ePhyto Solution, I believe that digitalising phytosanitary certification will be of huge benefit to Nigeria,” he said. “Replacing costly, inefficient paper-based procedures with seamless electronic processes is good for governments, businesses, and consumers.”