Interview: Valentina Mintah

What are the primary issues that the Ghana National Single Window (GNSW) addresses?

VALENTINA MINTAH: The ultimate aim of the GNSW is to reduce the time and cost of doing trade business, specifically in terms of import, export and transit. Processes across the international trade supply chain need to be simplified and harmonised. The supply chain is made up of four procedures. The first is commercial, essentially establishing sales contracts. Then comes transport and logistics, which ensures that vessel management and container terminal operations are in sync at air and sea ports, and so forth. The third component – regulatory – involves obtaining Customs clearance and permits, licences and certificates from regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drugs Authority and the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency. The last element is finance, entailing letters of credit, payments and insurance.

What successes has the GNSW achieved and what is the future implementation timeline?

MINTAH: Before setting out, a feasibility study was conducted that resulted in a strategic action plan and roadmap, setting out a number of key performance indicators (KPIs). An important KPI in the World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” report is “Trading Across Borders”. We believed the country’s ranking of 171 could be improved by 50% in three years’ time using an aggressive approach. Operations on the ground and documentation have improved, resulting in this KPI moving up by 13 points, above the country’s average of a bump of three points across other metrics. The jump occurred in the first year of implementation, which puts Ghana on course to reach its target thanks to the GNSW’s methodology.

On the ground, the Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System which issues the Customs Classification and Valuation Report (CCVR) has replaced the Final Classification and Valuation Report (FCVR) of the previous Destination Inspection Companies regime. Previously, the application to obtain an FCVR would take up to two weeks. Now, Customs is committed to delivering the CCVR within 48 hours. We are looking into the flexible payment of Customs duties, which will significantly reduce time and costs. Previously, the collection of duties was laborious.

Now, we have gone live with an import declaration form (IDF) and an e-payment gateway on Ghana’s Trading Hub, whereby both buyer and seller have access to an electronic wallet. This wallet can be charged from any bank by using Visa or MasterCard. The buyer can then pay for the IDF or pay in bulk. This framework will be extended to all other payment points. The next frontier will be Customs declarations, followed by the permits, licences and certificates of government ministries and agencies.

Where do you see room for IT to play a greater role in facilitating improvements?

MINTAH: In service delivery, there is room for growth. This cuts across the three areas of business to business, business to government and government to government. It is now possible to optimise all of these service delivery points. Today, service delivery within a government establishment should provide access to optimised processes for all documents requested, such as a birth certificate, driver’s licence or death certificate. A change in the management approach will be required if there are to be major improvements in the business-to-government and government-to-government sectors. Formulating an IT budget means more than providing desktops and brick-and-mortar equipment – it is about acquiring applications to facilitate changes to the government’s model-driven architecture. Investing in skilled IT workers and equipment – alongside a competent budget – and sustainability and continuity programmes would ensure a more holistic approach.