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World Bank Group

07/18/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/18/2019 10:24

Sierra Leone: Trade facilitation improvements are starting to bear fruit

Trade facilitation can bring economic gains to developing countries by reducing costs and delays for traders through measures that improve predictability, simplicity, transparency, and uniformity in border clearance.

Since 2017, the World Bank Group's Trade Facilitation Support Program has supported Sierra Leone's progress toward its trade facilitation goals in several ways:

  • Helping the country comply with the World Trade Organization's Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA);
  • Improving the national trading environment;
  • Increasing coordination among border agencies;
  • Increasing the use of risk management in border clearance; and
  • Integrating the border regulatory agencies into ASYCUDA World - the globally-recognized system for managing customs data.

Sierra Leone's trade facilitation reforms are spearheaded by a multi-agency National Trade Facilitation Committee, which includes representatives from both the public and private sector.

'Our role is to make trade faster, cheaper and easier. We developed a five-year plan to guide our efforts - supported by the World Bank Group. By 2023, the strategy aims to reduce the time and costs needed to move goods across our borders to the level of fifty percent efficiency of middle-income countries. Our aim is to reduce trade costs by 10%,' said Saffie Deen-Tarawally, Trade Facilitation Coordinator, Ministry of Trade.

Freetown's seaport is the main gateway for trade in and out of Sierra Leone with 80% of trade passing through this port. The port has a long history as a trading hub and benefits from the country's strategically important location midway between Europe and the Americas.

One of the recent upgrades led by the Customs Administration at the Freetown Port is the new computer system for customs data: ASYCUDA World. The new system allows for electronic processing of manifests and customs declarations at the seaport, airport, and certain land border offices. It provides online access to and interoperability with other government, trade facilitation agencies, and clearing agents. Traders and agencies can now lodge documents electronically for processing and approval and make payments on goods imported and exported out of the country.

'The new system is so much more efficient and connects all trade agencies. This will help to improve the trade experience for local businesses in Sierra Leone,' said Kpana Conteh, Assistant Commissioner of Customs, National Revenue Authority.

For Sierra Leone's business community, improvements such as these stand to make a difference. Sierra Agra works with over 3,500 local farmers all over the country to collect their locally grown fruits-mangoes, oranges, passionfruit- and produce concentrate in their factory. The company is very proud that most of its management team and staff are from Sierra Leone. Gender equality is also important to Sierra Agra, with 90 percent of its farmers being female.

According to Bangura, 'It is really important for businesses like ours that trading practices are efficient and cost effective. I am so happy about the Government's commitment to these modernizations, as they are really helping us to improve the livelihoods of thousands of our farmers and workers all over the country. We are so excited about our future.'

Though challenges remain, the development plans are ambitious and confidence is high, thanks to Sierra Leone's five year action plan and support from the World Bank Group's Trade Facilitation Support Program.

The Trade Facilitation Support Program is funded by nine donor partners, including Australia, Canada, the European Commission, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom. More than 60 countries have requested for assistance since its launch in 2014, with implementation support beginning in more than 47 countries, including Sierra Leone.