How to Import Goods into Benin

Benin imports have been steadily rising—from $4.63B in 2010 to $5.61B in 2015, and increasing at a rate of 2.4% per year. If you have been thinking about getting involved in the Benin trade scene—whether it’s rice, meat, medicine, or clothing—take a few moments to read on about some of the steps you’ll need to take to get your start. These guidelines are just a basic overview of the importing process, but they will give you a general idea of how to import goods in Benin.

Register Your Company and as an Importer

Your first step when importing into Benin—or any country—is to register your company. The most widely used corporate entity in Benin is the limited liability company; the Beninese refer to the limited liability company as an SARL. After verifying the uniqueness of your company name online at Next, open an account at a local Beninese bank and deposit your company’s capital. You will receive a récipité and an attestation from your bank. You will need these documents for filing at the Guichet Unique de Formalisation des Entreprises (GUFE).

GUFE is the governmental agency where you will file your documents to register your business. The Benin government’s Decree number 2009-542 created a one-stop shop that allows entrepreneurs to register with the tax authority, commercial registry, labor directorate (Direction Générale du Travail) and the directorate of commerce (Direction Générale du Commerce Intérieur et la Direction Générale du Commerce Extérieur) in one location. Within three months of your company’s incorporation, you must also register with social security at the Caisse Nationale de Securité Sociale (CNSS). Finally, within 20 days of the initiation of business activity, you must register with the Direction Nationale des Impôts et des Domaines—Benin’s tax authority. This is meant to ensure that your business remains compliant with the tax code.

The entire process of creating the entity and registering your company can be lengthy—it will be at least four months before everything is complete. Once you’ve finally registered your company, you will now register yourself as an importer. To get your importer card, go to the Direction Générale du Commerce Extérieur and bring with you the following:
• A copy of your company’s articles of incorporation;
• A copy of your company’s entry into the corporate and trade register;
• A copy of the criminal record issued by the country of origin of your company’s manager or director;
• A copy of the residence permit for non-nationals (issued by the Ministry of Interior, Security, and Territorial Administration);
• The receipt of payment of an advance on the business profit (BIC) for the year;
• The receipt pf payment showing you paid your dues to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Benin (CCIB) for the year; and
• The receipt of payment showing you paid your dues to the National Provident Fund (CNSS) or your certificate of registration with CNSS).

To get your importer’s card, you’ll pay a fee of 30,000 CFA francs. You’ll also need to pay 1,000 CFA francs for the revenue stamp, which you’ll get at the State Property Department. Finally, by going to the Foreign Trade Directorate, you can obtain your import intention (DPI), which is issued automatically with no restrictions on quantity or value. Your DPI will be valid for six months from date of issuance and can be renewed once for an additional three months.

Purchase Local Trade Insurance, Hire a Clearing Agent, and Obtain Licenses

To import your goods into Benin, the country requires that you purchase trade insurance from a local company. Trade insurance will compensate you for covered losses of your goods while they’re being shipped or stored.

Next, hire a local clearing agent. This person will act as your liaison and will manage coordination of the import process on your behalf.

Benin regulates a number of imported goods, so be sure to check whether there are restrictions or requirements for the goods you intend to import. For instance, Benin prohibits the importation of millet, sorghum, and arms. It also requires importers to obtain licenses for certain other items.

Register for the Single Window “Le Guichet Unique” Trade Portal

On November 10, 2010, the Beninese government put the company SEGUB (Société d’Exploitation de Guichet Unique du Bénin)—a joint venture formed by SOGET, Bureau Veritas – BIVAC, and the government of Benin—in charge of operating Benin’s Single Window Trade Portal. Benin’s Single Window Trade Portal, also sometimes referred to as Le Guichet Unique des Opérations de Commerce Extérieur (GUOCE), is a virtual platform that simplifies pre-clearance procedures for import and export transactions. This intergovernmental website facilitates the trade process by providing private and public stakeholders—such as government agencies, trade groups, and logistics communities—a place to interact and access government services. Le Guichet Unique makes the trade process easier for importers and exporters by allowing you to exchange information, submit import customs documents, use a secure online payment system for all trade payments, track your transactions, and research relevant government agencies relevant. You must register as a user to be able to take advantage of the trade portal. For more information on how to register and use the site, visit SEGUB’s website.

Importer’s Arrangement of Documentation

It will be your responsibility to obtain and verify all required documentation. Typical documents required to import your goods include:

• Pro Forma Invoice
• Bills of Lading (B/L)
• Inspection Certificates from Bureau Veritas — BIVAC (all goods are subject to BIVAC inspection before embarking)
• Your importer identification card
• Certificate of Origin
• Single Pay Slip (BFU)
• Electronic cargo tracking note (BESC)
• Requisite licenses

For more information on the documentation required by the importer, you can contact the Direction de l’Application et de la Reglementation at +229.21318740.

General Benin Customs Clearance Overview

The clearing agent you hired earlier will oversee most the clearance process, yet it still makes sense to keep on top of your broker throughout this process to verify that the appropriate steps are being carried out in a timely manner. Your supplier is tasked with ensuring that the shipping documents are complete and accurate before the goods leave the country of origin; this helps to ensure that the goods can be cleared with the local authorities at their destination. Prior to shipment, Benin requires that all goods be subject to pre-shipment inspection (PSI). This should be arranged by your supplier. BIVAC—a company of Bureau Veritas—will oversee the inspection of the goods.

Your supplier will forward the required documents to your clearing agent. Your clearing agent will then send an export declaration with the required accompanying documents—such as the packing list, invoice, certificate of origin, and certificate of quality—to the Customs Officer.

The import proceeds for most imported goods with an FOB value that equals or exceeds 5 million CFA francs must be domiciled with an approved Beninese bank, and the payment must be subject to the execution of an import certificate. The goods can be transferred once Customs verifies the import certificate and determines that no discrepancies exist between the import certificate and the invoice.

The Customs Officer will check the declaration and supporting documents for accuracy and conformity with legal requirements. Your broker will sign and complete a form through Le Guichet Unique/The Single Window Trade Portal. After the clearance documents have been submitted, SEGUB will issue a receipt called the “Bordereau de Frais Unique (BFU)” to your clearing agent. The Customs Officer will validate the release order that has been given and then issue the exit note to your broker.

Payment of Import Duty and Clearance

Every item you import into Benin requires payment of duties and tariffs. Benin is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ECOWAS includes Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Beginning in 2015, ECOWAS implemented the “Tarif Exterieur Commun”—or, Common Exterior Tariff (CET). The standard tariff for goods that are imported into ECOWAS member nations includes both duties and taxes and comprises the Customs Duty, the Community Solidarity Deduction, the Statistical Duty, the Import Cyclical Tax, and the Regressive Protection Tax. The amount ranges from 0 to 35% of the value of your imports and depends on the nature and origin of your goods. For instance, drugs and books are have a 0% levy, while 20% is levied on all final consumption goods imported from outside of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) zone. In addition to these duties, importers must pay an 18% value-added tax (VAT) upon entry.

After duties have been settled and your goods have successfully passed through customs clearance, you can finally collect your imports!

Partner with WaystoCap—the First African focused B2B Marketplace

The Beninese import process can certainly be time consuming and difficult. The import regulations outlined in this blog are not comprehensive—there are many other regulations, rules, and instructions you must follow when importing into Benin. It takes a great amount of experience, time, and knowledge of Beninese import/export regulations to properly import your goods into the country.

That’s where Ways to Cap steps in. We will save you valuable time by guiding you through Benin’s import process, step-by-step. With our background and expertise in the international trade business in Benin we can help you discover products, agree on terms, execute a pro forma invoice, perform due diligence, submit documents, obtain trade insurance and finance, and arrange delivery of your products. Contact us today for more information.

Contact Us For Your Exports or Imports: [email protected]

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Alexander Simoes, Benin, The Observatory of Economic Complexity, MIT Media Lab,
Benin—Import Tariffs,, last updated 2 December 2016,
Country Profiles: Benin, World Trade Organization,
Doing Business: Ease of Doing Business in Benin, The World Bank, 2017,
Doing Business: Ease of Doing Business in Benin, The World Bank, 2017,
Guide for Exporting to Benin, Investir en Zone Franc,
Home page of Société d’Exploitation de Guichet Unique du Bénin (SEGUB),

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