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Supporting Burundi to boost trade and competitiveness

Supporting Burundi to boost trade and competitiveness

Commonwealth in Action: Hub and Spokes II - Accessing finance towards the implementation of multilateral trade agreements.

The Hub and Spokes II Programme provides trade experts to national ministries and regional trade organisations to enhance trade capacity in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states. It is a joint programme of the European Union (main donor), ACP Group Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

Youssouf Kone, a trade adviser, has been working with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism in Burundi since 2011.

Read his blog below:

Burundi’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism amongst other responsibilities is in charge of negotiating, drafting and implementing trade policy. Since 2011, I have been working with the Ministry in enhancing its trade capacity to deal with these aspects of trade policy development.

Burundi is a landlocked and least developed country (LDC) located in the heart of Africa, between the Eastern and Central Africa regions. Geography and other trade barriers add dramatically to the development challenges facing the country, frequently resulting in high trade transactions costs, with logistics costs account for approximately 30 percent of gross domestic product.

Trade facilitation and integration into the regional and global economy are major pillars of the national strategic framework for poverty reduction covering the period 2012-2017. A lot of my work has recently focused on the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

By implementing trade facilitation, intra-regional trade and economic growth are expected to increase in Burundi. The TFA aims at simplifying, harmonising and standardising trade procedures, as well as increasing their transparency so as to reduce the time and cost of trade operations for participating countries. This is particularly relevant for Burundi that is a landlocked country in Africa, hence is likely to suffer from increased trade costs as compared with coastal African countries. In partnering with neighbouring countries on trade facilitation, logistics and infrastructure development, Burundi can work towards lowering its trade costs. The hope is that developing countries will be able to improve their trade competitiveness and economic growth.

Burundi is now in the process of adopting measures needed to bring the agreement into effect. The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism has received funding from Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and with the technical support I am providing as a Hub and Spokes Adviser we are working towards the effective implementation of the TFA in Burundi.

In 2015, I was leading a team in charge of updating the national needs assessment and finalising national implementation actions plan for trade facilitation. The process has required extensive consultation with customs authorities, private sector associations and donor agencies in order to progress domestically on trade facilitation measures, including Burundi’s adherence to the WTO TFA provisions.

As a result of the initiative, Burundi has now notified its ‘category A’ measures to the WTO, which are those measures which will need to be implemented when the agreement comes into force. Thereafter I have been working on the decree on establishing a National Trade Facilitation Committee and finally drafted the instrument of ratification of the WTO TFA.

Last month, I participated in a National Trade Facilitation Committee workshop, with the objective of developing strategic planning on trade facilitation at both national and East African Community levels, and strengthening trade facilitation bodies. During the workshop I provided contribution on the state of play of implementation of the WTO TFA in Burundi and significantly contributed to improve the technical knowledge of members of the National Trade Facilitation Committee on selected measures.

As part of the workshops, the Ministry has managed to train 40 employees from government agencies and private sector associations, of which about 30 per cent were women. Participants came from a diverse range of sectors, including customs and borders authorities and chambers of commerce. In addition, 24 of the participants have been designated by their respective institutions as members of the newly established National Trade Facilitation Committee. The importance of training along the value chain and across different sectors, including government sector representatives, is vital to ensure a coherent approach to trade facilitation domestically.

As part of the Ministry, I will continue to work on raising domestic capacity to enhance trade facilitation measures and so increase our domestic competitiveness.

Sebastian Nzimana, Director General of Trade, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism stated: "The last five years of working with Youssouf Kone has indeed been an enriching experience for many officials in the Ministry. The quality work and significant contributions of the Hub and Spokes adviser made Burundi improve the trade policy work at the national and regional level.”

Celine Bacrot, UNCTAD Regional Coordinator commented: "Youssouf Kone is a very intelligent colleague who knows how to facilitate a workshop and when to intervene so as to stimulate discussion but also moderate in case of issues raised during the sessions. He has been an essential staff member in the implementation of the trade facilitation agreement and the establishment of the National Trade Facilitation Committee in Burundi.”

For more information on the Hub and Spokes II programme, please email the team