By Ajong Mbapndah L
As Africa grapples with the challenges of catching up with modern trends and techniques that will make it more competitive in the global sphere, it has found a willing partner in Webb Fountaine a world leading technology company reshaping the future of trade.
From managing world leading trade reform digitalization projects across the globe to engaging with key governments and partners through innovative technology, Alioune Ciss, the Chief Executive Officer is key to the strategic drive, focus, and direction of the Webb Fontaine brand. In the following Q & A he sheds light on the operations of Webb Fontaine in Africa and its relevance to the development dynamics in the continent.
Could we start with an introduction of Web Fontaine and the services and products that it offers?
Webb Fontaine is a world-leading technology company re-shaping the future of Trade. Trusted by governments globally, Webb Fontaine provides industry wide solutions to accelerate Trade development and modernisation. The company uses unique technology including Artificial Intelligence to enable countries to emerge as leaders in the future of Trade.
How relevant are the services and products of Webb Fontaine to Africa?
First, we have a lot of experience in Africa, where we have had, over the years, multiple projects in many countries. The objective, through Customs computerization, was to make clearance of imports more predictable. When we introduced a Single Window approach, we changed the environment, by spectacular simplification of all formalities (not only Customs). Linked to a Port Community System (PCS), our approach allows importers and clearing agents to comply with all formalities from their office premises, with minimal interface with the administrations. Another aspect is tracking of cargo in transit, which reduces significantly risks of diversion and smuggling.
In what parts of Africa has Webb Fontaine done or is doing business in, any specifics on the nature of projects and what feedback did you receive?
Webb Fontaine has multiple projects across Africa, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria, Guinea, Congo, Niger, Central Africa Republic. We are proud to partner with leading Government Administrations across the continent with digitalization of Customs and Trade processes at the heart of the partnerships.
What role is your technology playing in helping Africa recover from the ravages of COVID 19?
First, we have reduced physical interface in most of the phases of clearance: Declaration lodging and payment in particular.
Second, we have found that, with social distancing or even staff furlough, processing was often expedited, not delayed.
Third, in some countries we found that revenue had actually gone up!
What strategy is in place to expand your business operations across Africa?
Our approach is to use digitalisation to its utmost potential, to make transactions transparent and predictable.
You are a seasoned professional when it comes to trade issues, looking at Africa, where do you see opportunities, where do you see challenges?
Let me answer first in terms of challenges: It may well be that the traditional border control mode (whether at seaports or at land borders) is partially obsolete. With digitalisation, we can help administrations capture data much more upstream, thus increasing reliability, and reducing opportunities for delays and/or corruption. We have to develop this approach.
In terms of opportunities, one is – and it is essential – the talent available in Africa. We want to make the most of it, for the benefit of countries. The second is the procedural shift which is likely to happen, and we are ready for it.