By developing its national Single Window, Cameroon had already made considerable progress towards digitalising trade processes. With assistance from the Alliance, it enabled the digital exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates – ePhytos – with other countries through the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Hub.
Phytosanitary certificates confirm that international shipments of plants and plant products are free of pests and disease and therefore safe to import. These paper documents are posted, couriered, or accompany international shipments. They can take days for exporters to obtain and are prone to errors, loss, and counterfeiting, potentially resulting in spoiled goods, additional port charges, and frustrated customers.
Guichet Unique pour le Commerce Exterieur (GUCE), the Single Window operator, had conducted initial test exchanges with the IPPC ePhyto Hub. The Alliance supported it in completing test exchanges and in implementing electronic signature technology to enable the exchange of ePhytos with European Union member states.
Cameroon is among the main producers of cocoa beans in the world and aims through ePhyto adoption to increase exports of this and other lucrative crops, including wood and wood products, bananas, coffee, cotton, rubber, and maize.
Agriculture employs around 50% of the Central African country’s workforce, mainly on two million small family farms. Export growth can help to enable greater investment in the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) responsible for harvesting most of this produce on a subsistence basis.
What we did
The Alliance provided technical support to GUCE, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Department of Regulation and Quality Control of Agricultural Inputs and Products in taking the necessary steps to connect the Single Window with the IPPC Hub, enabling ePhyto exchange for both exporters and importers.
1. Provided technical support to GUCE in interfacing it with the IPPC ePhyto Hub. Building on limited test exchanges of export ePhytos that have been executed successfully, the Alliance provided additional technical assistance in implementing eSignatures on ePhytos to enable their receipt by the EU TRACES system, an online platform that handles electronic completion of necessary documentation for third country imports. The Alliance also provided technical assistance to resolve errors and any other outstanding issues regarding the exchange of ePhytos with other countries.
2. Assisted GUCE, the Department of Regulation and Quality Control of Agricultural Inputs and Products, and the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in supporting the completion and operation of importing ePhytos using the Single Window. This included technical support to complete the development of the import module and undertaking test (and eventually production) exchanges of import ePhytos through the IPPC ePhyto Hub.
3. Helped to conduct a further review of phytosanitary certification procedures and ePhyto operations within the Single Window and making recommendations for any necessary improvements. This included a limited Business Process Analysis.
4. Provided appropriate training and change management supports to GUCE and NPPO staff in related areas. Additionally, following the introduction of the IPPC ePhyto Solution, the Alliance provided training to companies and NPPO staff on the new procedures.
The Alliance trained MSMEs – which form the backbone of the Cameroon’s agriculture sector – on the new process.
Also, recognising the prominence of women in food production, the Alliance reached out to key women advocacy groups and women owners of trading firms to help ensure equal access for everyone to participate in various activities related to this project, particularly training events.
Introducing the IPPC ePhyto Solution has allowed the transfer of certificates between parties quickly, accurately, and at low cost, which in turn reduces:
- receipt times associated with physical certificates
- logistical costs
- costs associated with shipping certificates
- food spoilage due to shorter transit time and an efficient certificate replacement procedure in case of error or other reasons for rejection
- processing times at import and at the border of destination due to pre-arrival processing
- potential fraud
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