Togo’s strategic location, particularly through the deep seaport of Lome, makes the country a vital transit centre and regional hub for goods flowing to neighbouring landlocked countries in West Africa.
Togolese agriculture represents a major economic sector, both in terms of employment and food security. It is the main source of employment with 60% of the working population included in its value chain.
However, processing a mandatory phytosanitary certificate to show a shipment is free of pests and disease involves considerable paperwork and many trips to the Direction de la Protection des Vegetaux (DPV), the country’s National Plant Protection Office (NPPO).
Togolese traders, and their forwarding agents, can expect two to three trips to the NPPO and often have to wait many days between request and issuance of the certificates. In the case of processed goods, the process can easily take up to a week. If amendments are needed, a third trip and longer wait times have to be factored into the business’ planning. Exporters must then submit the 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, many certificates are rejected as non-compliant by importing countries. In such cases, these documents are returned to Togo 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 the local private sector confirmed that delays and resulting additional costs are impeding access to international markets, limitinge conomic growth and leading to food spoilage. The additional time and cost incurred by manual procedures form a significant barrier for would-be exporters and importers, particularly for women-owned businesses and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who reported facing higher levels of economic exclusion.
What We Are Doing
The Alliance, through GIZ, and in partnership with the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT), is supporting Togo 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.
The Alliance is catalysing public private partnership− collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture, through DPV, Customs and the Ministry of Commerce, global and local businesses and their representative organisations − to transition towards digitalisation.
The project will entail technical and change management initiatives, including configuration of the Generic National System (GeNS) solution to support the local IT ecosystem already in place, extensive training of DPV staff as well as importers 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.
The Alliance has already gained valuable experience supporting the successful implementation of the IPPC ePhyto Solution in various countries around the world and will draw particularly on the lessons learned in Senegal. In the spirit of regional collaboration, the project will seek synergies where possible with the ongoing project in Nigeria where the IPPC ePhyto solution is also being deployed.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2024.
Introducing the IPPC ePhyto Solution in Togo will have measurable short and long-term economic benefits for the country and the West African region.
Modernising the agricultural sector affords Togo an opportunity to diversify its economy and fully cement its vital role as a central hub within a fast-developing region.
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.
Beyond time and cost savings, adoption of the IPPC ePhyto Solution:
- enables the seamless exchange of phytosanitary certificates
- enhances the productivity of DPV inspectors who can focus on other priority tasks
- improves operational control procedures at the border
- mitigates opportunities for documentary falsification
- increases food security through quicker border clearance for imports
- reduces barriers to trade, particularly for MSMEs and women-owned businesses
Recognising the potential of the AfCFTA and the Abidjan-Lagos corridor to improve Togo’s economic development and food security, the full implementation of the ePhyto solution in Togo represents a step towards improved phytosanitary trade procedures within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal are already issuing ePhytos and Togo and Nigeria in the process of connecting to the hub. This trend should eventually support the regional integration of agricultural value chains.