Tech Adoption By Govt Agencies Can Enhance Governance, Regulation – Ciss

webnexttech | Tech Adoption By Govt Agencies Can Enhance Governance, Regulation – Ciss

How will you rate the adoption of technology in Nigeria?We are more than satisfied with where we are today, as a company.
Like I said, we moved from manual system to something that is much more professional.
I think Nigerians have always been quick to embrace technology.
For example, you can point to mobile phone and mobile money penetration in the last decade and see a huge progression in Nigeria and across Africa.
It shows that Nigerians have adopted technology and internet in their daily lives.
This is very evident when we implement things in the Customs, trade environment and people are eager to start using this technology.
We are talking about things like Artificial Intelligence(AI), machine learning, Big Data, and electronic payments of duties and taxes.
So, in people, trade, and government, you see that Nigerians are very eager to use this cutting-edge technology to do their work.
How would you rate the impact of your technology on customs operation after its deployment?
Since we have been working in Nigeria, especially with Nigeria Customs Service, we have moved from a manual system using typewriters to a fully digitalised environment.
I think a lot of things have changed with the help of technology.
Currently, we are up to date and growing every year, time of processing documentations are getting shorter.
So, I think that we are getting to something quite interesting.
With technology, we have managed to connect more than 14 regulatory agencies, like Federal Inland Revenues Service(FIRS), Nigeria Customs Services, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control(NAFDAC), Standard Organisation of Nigeria(SON), among others, all through a single platform and this, I think, is quite interesting in terms of technology.
Today, these agencies have a customer-centric single window platform, and this means that everybody can be aligned on a digitalised matter; you do not have to go to a certain ministry to get approval as this can now be done online.
So, I think that technology has brought a lot to Nigeria Customs service through the single window platform they have.
It has redefined its operation, making its processes and services seamless, and cut down turnover time.
Because we have been working in Nigeria since 2006, every year, we try to bring new technology.
Do we also have the private sector subscribing to your bouquet of technology as well?
Yes, definitely.
In addition to the government who is the user of our technology, we also have most trade associations subscribing to it in the private sector.
So, we have depot agents, shipping lines and container terminal operators, who use our technology for their day to day operations.
What this has done is to cut down time wastage to ensure that tasks become easier and seamless.
I think we have more than 3,000 people, comprising of government and private sector players, conducting their businesses online through our technology.
In future, competition might be stiffer in the market you play in, as more investors begin to see signs of opportunities in that.
How are you ready to cope with this competition?
We are quite relaxed about it because we have been working a lot on our solutions, technology.
We have a lot of research; we have a lot of funds investment done in research and development; we have one-third of our staff only working on research and so, basically, we are the leader in this business today.
Hence, we are not afraid of competitors because we are always ahead.
You know, to do a customs management system, it takes you five years of full-time people or maybe 100 people working a full-time day and night on this.
So, I think we are open to people coming into the business but we are definitely far above all of them.
We work in about 16 countries around the world, we are in Asia, the Middle East, United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Philippines, and in Africa.
How were you able to excel in Nigeria, despite the harsh operating environment?
The experience we have in Nigeria is very unique and very challenging.
In Nigeria, we have infrastructural challenge, because we all know that, in Nigeria, electricity can be a problem, so, we need a generator.
We have a lot of powerful actors and you know, when you are setting up a system like this, you need to have players willing to work together in Nigeria.
But very often, you have very powerful entities, regulatory entities and its difficult to make them work together.
It’s very challenging and the results are good and we have even more energy to go forward basically.
So, there are challenges like everywhere and it can be electricity or telecommunication.
Do you have any Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) project you have embarked on, to give back to the society?
This is something that we take very seriously, so, we try to do a lot of things in Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR).
I do not like to brag about it because its something that we do with a lot of humility.
We help a lot of schools, refurbished some hospitals, bought some equipment, and equip some dialysis centres as well.
We have been doing this for a long time and we take a lot of pride in renewing and refurbishing schools and intend to work with a lot of startups in Nigeria.
So, this is something we will continue to do more and more because this is good for the environment of a very high technical people and we are working on that currently as well.
We are thinking of creating a Research and Development Centre in Africa and I think Nigeria is one of the countries that we are looking at.
So, we want to create five Research and Development centres around the world and we want one in Africa.
What others areas are you looking at developing, aside your current market?
Despite the progress, we do not want to stop in the area where we are working today, which is customs and trade.
We want to go much further.
We want to have a partnership with Nigerian ICT companies as well brings technology even further than it is.
I believe a lot in technology.
Today, the way we would go to see doctors for medicines, the way we are going to be learning at school, and so on, will all be around technology, and we want to play a role in all these different elements and Nigeria is somewhere we would like to play in.
Where will you want your company to be in the near future?
Today, we are already a leader in the field of Customs and Trade.
So, in the next five years, we will like to continue playing this role of leader.
We would like to, as well, increase our footprint not only by working with governments, and regulatory agencies but as well as delivering separate services to people and businesses.
We will not only be focusing on customs and trade, and to this end, we are always in this mood looking for new ways of doing business, providing the best services to people, governments, or industry.
Today, we have around 900 staff in Webb Fontaine, we will be doubling or tripling the number of people working in it and most of the people will be working in Research Development of new applications.
The major challenge that we have found that slows a lot of what we are doing is the resistance to change.
People are not ready to change the way they have been doing business for years.
We understand this challenge in the course of our business and to change things, it is important to sit down with different stakeholders to make them understand that computerisation and digitalisation would not take away their job but will make it easier, better, and faster.
It takes a little bit of time sometimes but as we move forward, it is getting easier to make people understand.
So, you need to look at the actual processes and do a lot of business reengineering and propose better solutions.
People need training to know more about the technology so that they can adopt it earlier.
But being resistant to change is probably something that slows down a lot of our processes.
We started piloting tracking goods recently in Nigeria.
We are tracking goods trucks and containers from the main port to the different ICDs warehouses that we have around the airport.
Today, we know how it is in Lagos ports, totally congested, so, what we are trying to do is to track the goods using GPS systems to know exactly where these containers are moving to, and track the movement to the containers because we know there is a lot of loss of revenue there, and containers disappear.
Now, the idea is; you have a monitoring room, you will be able to know exactly where the container is or moving to.
This is something that we have implemented and it started last week with one of the big companies from Apapa, Tin Can to their premises.
Another thing that is of big interest to Nigeria is that, we have been developing for the last four or five years, a new customs management system, and this customs management system has been effective.
We have a project now to be implemented in Benin, and we have signed last week a project to be implemented in the United Arab Emirates(UAE) and other places as well.
So, this is a new customs management system that has a lot of features and would be replacing basic licenses in the future.
So, this is something that can be of interest to Nigeria and to a lot of countries around the world that are looking for a move to a new customs system.
We are going to add other solutions for governments to improve what exists, developing new solutions and as well as working in the new sector, with businesses or doing business with other businesses.
We will be providing solutions, high-tech solutions that will facilitate work.
So, these are things we will be doing to increase our portfolio.
Can our readers know more about you?
My name is Alioune Ciss, I am from Senegal by nationality.
I have a Swiss passport as well and was born in New York.
My father was a diplomat.
So, I was raised around the world.
I lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, and even in New York.
And I joined the United Nations just after my studies, and worked at the UN for 24 years.
I worked basically in Geneva, but also in the Latin, West Africa, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Mali.
In 2015, I decided to resign from the United Nations(UN) and join Webb Fontaine.
So I joined Webb Fontaine as executive director in 2015 and in 2021, I was in charge of Webb Fontaine worldwide and the chief executive officer(CEO) based in Dubai.
Alioune is key to the strategic drive, focus and direction of the Webb Fontaine brand.
Managing world leading Trade reform digitalisation projects across the globe with key Governments and partners, through innovative technology.
Alioune is thought leader within the Trade and Customs field, strategically bringing together new technology and ideas to practically implement and change mindsets.
He has managed and delivered some of Webb Fontaine’s most ground breaking projects such as smart fraud detection for the Nigeria Customs Service.
Alioune has partaken in many panel discussions with the World Customs Organisation, United Nations, AFRITAC (IMF Regional Center for West Africa), WB/IFC and African Shippers Council Organisation.
Prior to his work at Webb Fontaine, Alioune spent 24 years at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development where he was for the last 10 years the Project Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East.
Alioune is married with two children.

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