Dematerialization of certificates of origin: one more step towards the realization of the ZLECAF

Dematerialization of certificates of origin: one more step towards the realization of the ZLECAF
Dematerialization of certificates of origin: one more step towards the realization of the ZLECAF

The Customs and Indirect Tax Administration announces the implementation of the dematerialization of certificates of origin for exports to member countries of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ZLECAF), thus facilitating intra-African trade. Details.

The Customs and Indirect Tax Administration (ADII) is taking a new step in the implementation of the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (ZLECAF). By circular n°6574/233 of June 14, 2024, the ADII announces the dematerialization of the issuance of certificates of origin for Moroccan exports to the States parties to this major regional trade agreement.

In accordance with the provisions of the ZLECAF, the originating products exchanged must be covered by a certificate of origin conforming to the conventional model. With this in mind, Morocco has started the digitalization of this process, thus being part of the strategy of dematerialization of customs procedures initiated by the ADII.

The advantage of a familiar environment
From now on, Moroccan exporters or their authorized representatives will have to establish their requests for certificates of origin via the BADR system, when preparing the export declaration. This has the advantage of being part of a familiar process, thus limiting disruption and facilitating user adoption. However, specific adaptations have been made to take into account the requirements of the ZLECAF.

Indeed, the BADR system now includes functionalities dedicated to entering the information required for certificates of origin conforming to the conventional model of the regional trade agreement. Concretely, when establishing the export declaration, exporters or their representatives will have to provide the additional data necessary to obtain the ZLECAF certificate of origin. Some information will be pre-filled automatically from elements already entered in the declaration, while others will have to be completed manually.

For these manual entries, the system will offer drop-down lists allowing you to select the appropriate options, thus ensuring harmonization of data and limiting the risk of errors. For example, rules of origin codes specific to the ZLECAF could be chosen from a predefined list. This integration of ZLECAF functionalities within the existing BADR system thus allows operational continuity while meeting the specific requirements of the new regional trade agreement. Exporters thus benefit from a familiar environment, as indicated above, while having the necessary tools to comply with the ZLECAF rules in a dematerialized and harmonized manner.

Provision of a detailed user guide
To support this digital transition, the ADII says it has made detailed user guides available to exporters on its online platforms, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the new procedures linked to the dematerialized request for the certificate of origin. Although the total dematerialization of the delivery process is not yet effective, the data entered in the BADR system will be published on the original of the certificate of origin following the conventional ZLECAF model. This document must be signed by the exporter or his authorized representative, then presented to the export office for control and approval before final validation on the system.

This progress marks a crucial step in Morocco’s integration into the ZLECAF, a vast free trade zone bringing together 54 African countries and aiming to stimulate intra-African trade. The dematerialization of certificates of origin facilitates export procedures, strengthens the traceability of trade and contributes to the harmonization of commercial practices at the continental level.

However, this digital transition also raises challenges in terms of adaptation of economic operators, training in new tools and data security. Effective management of organizational change will be essential to ensure successful adoption of these new paperless procedures.

Contrasted growth in intra-African trade: regional integration to the test
Bringing hope for a more united and prosperous Africa, the African Continental Free Trade Area (ZLECAF) aims to stimulate trade between the nations of the continent. However, the latest data from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) paints a mixed picture on the progress made. With growth of 7.2% in 2023, reaching $192 billion, intra-African trade continues to grow. This positive dynamic reflects the efforts made to strengthen regional economic integration.

Nevertheless, its share remains modest at 15% of Africa’s total trade, highlighting persistent challenges. Beyond the overall figures, striking disparities emerge between African sub-regions. Southern Africa, a traditional engine with 41.4% of intra-African trade, confirms its leading role. This performance can be explained in particular by the vitality of certain regional economies, including that of South Africa, first in the Top 10 contributors to intra-African trade, and the existence of well-established regional trade agreements.

On the other hand, other regions are struggling to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the ZLECAF. West Africa represents 25.7% of intra-continental trade, while Central Africa only captures 6.6%. These gaps highlight challenges related to infrastructure, trade facilitation and regulatory harmonization between countries.

Global geopolitical and economic factors
Beyond internal dynamics, the Afreximbank report highlights the impact of global geopolitical and economic upheavals on African trade. Tensions linked to conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as slowing growth in China and developed countries, have weighed on global demand for African raw materials.

This dependence on commodity exports, particularly crude oil representing more than 36% of total exports, weakens the continent in the face of the volatility of world prices. The drop in crude prices in 2023 has severely affected the commercial performance of major exporting countries such as Nigeria, Angola and Libya.

Rebalancing commercial partnerships

At the same time, the report highlights a structural shift in Africa’s trade partnerships. Traditionally focused on Europe, which captured 47.8% of African exports in the 1990s, the continent is gradually opening up to emerging Asian markets. The latter now represent 26% of African exports over the last decade.

This geographical rebalancing of trade offers new prospects for the continent, but also raises issues in terms of regulatory harmonization, trade facilitation and diversification of trading partners. Ultimately, despite notable progress, the growth of intra-African trade remains uneven and vulnerable to external hazards. Deep regional integration, combined with ambitious structural reforms, will be instrumental in realizing the ambitions of the AfCFTA and building an economically strong and united Africa on the global stage.

Bilal Cherraji / ECO Inspirations



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