In progress

Digitalising phytosanitary certification

Introducing electronic exchange to boost trade


The Challenge

Nigeria’s agricultural sector has expanded significantly in recent years, with exports more than doubling in value since 2018. Everyone recognises its potential to drive growth and its centrality to employment, economic diversification, and food security.

However, processing a mandatory phytosanitary certificate to show a shipment is free of pests and disease typically involves a lot of duplicative paperwork and two or three separate trips to the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), the country’s National Plant Protection Office (NPPO).

Every trip can tie up someone for half a day and from inspection request to issuance, the process to obtain a phytosanitary certificate can take up to two weeks. Exporters then transfer a certificate by post, courier or with a shipment. Passing through several hands on the journey, documents are prone to human error, loss, or fraud.

For many reasons, including illegible handwriting, incomplete information, and illicit alterations, some certificates are rejected as non-compliant by importing countries. In such cases, these documents are returned to Nigeria to be rectified.

Meanwhile, goods remain stuck in port, incurring additional storage charges, deterioration, and frustrated customers. Rejections may also have a knock-on effect, damaging the country’s reputation and undermining economic growth.

Initial consultations with agri-food exporters confirmed that delays and resulting additional costs are damaging competitiveness and leading to food spoilage. The additional time and cost incurred by manual procedures form a significant barrier for all would-be exporters, particularly for resource-stretched micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).


What We Are Doing

In partnership with the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT), the Alliance through GIZ is supporting Nigeria in adopting the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) ePhyto Solution, enabling the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates, or ePhytos, with trading partners through a central hub, quickly, accurately and at low cost.

Recognising the logistical challenges in trying to introduce electronic phytosanitary exchange across a vast country with numerous land, sea and air cross-border inspection points, this project will focus on southwestern Nigeria, covering five states responsible for 50% of the country’s agricultural exports.

The Alliance is catalysing public private partnership – collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, through NAQS, global and local businesses and their representative organisations – to transition from the current manual, paper-based process.

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 is supporting the Alliance in fostering private sector engagement, providing strategic guidance, as well as logistical support and networking opportunities.

Once implemented successfully, the Alliance will work with NAQS and the private sector in designing a sustainability plan to enable roll-out to the remainder of the country.

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.

Technical integration will include introducing e-Payment for certification and e-Signature for European Union-bound exports.

As with every Alliance project, this initiative will also be 100% MSME and gender-sensitised, acknowledging the additional obstacles faced by small businesses and companies owned or led by women. In 2019, 41% of the country’s micro businesses were women-owned, representing 23 million female entrepreneurs, among the highest rates in the world.

The Alliance has already gained valuable experience supporting the successful implementation of the IPPC ePhyto Solution in Ecuador, Jordan, Madagascar, Morocco, and Senegal.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2024.


Projected Impacts

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with around 223 million people, relies heavily on agriculture to support its economic development and guarantee food security. The sector accounts for 23% of GDP and 35% of total employment.

The agricultural sector affords Nigeria an opportunity to reduce its reliance on oil exports, creating a more robust, sustainable economy through diversification.

The country’s agricultural industry has expanded significantly in recent years. A considerable increase in investment has increased production and productivity, more than doubling the value of sectoral exports from US$ 620 million in 2018 to US$ 1.4 billion in 2021.

Transition to ePhyto will produce time and cost savings for traders, reducing the administrative burden on both public and private sectors and boosting national competitiveness. It will also align NAQS and exporters more closely with international standards and expectations.

Beyond time and cost savings, adoption of the IPPC ePhyto Solution:

  • enables the seamless exchange of phytosanitary certificates
  • strengthens consumer safety
  • enhances procedural transparency
  • mitigates opportunities for documentary falsification
  • increases food security through quicker border clearance
  • reduces barriers to trade, particularly for MSMEs
  • allows policymakers to access real-time export data

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