Niger is the 142nd largest economy in the world, exporting over $1.27b in 2015 alone. This is improving thank to the seventh republic of the country, which was established in 2010 and the economy of Niger has been growing since. The dream of the country is to make Niamey, Niger’s capital city, into a bustling trading centre, a dream that they are steadily working towards. This makes it a perfect place for the budding international trader, a new world for a new market. Are you one of these entrepreneurs? Seeking your riches as you import into Niger? If so, read on and we will instruct you on the easy steps you require to import your goods into Niger.
Before the worries set in, I know a new government can seem scary to some people, especially when it comes from a coup d’état, but rest assured that 2011 Mo Ibrahim African Governance Index listed Niger as among countries that have improved in terms of safety and rule of law, giving it a score of 50 out of 100. So not only is it a great new market, it’s a safe one.
Using a Local Agent
First off, it is definitely a good idea to look into using a local agent when you first begin to import your goods into Niger. This is ideal as whilst the national language of Niger is French, there are many different cultural and language barriers that exist within the country. You have to ensure that your representation is exactly tailored to Niger to ensure it fits the market, it is very different from selling in the west, but don’t let that put you off!
It is important to remember that your agent should be a local business, registered to trade within Niger, otherwise you may as well set up your own sales branch in the country, something we will address now.
Register your business
Before you continue, it may be worth you looking into registering your own business in Niger. This can be beneficial for those who can’t find an agent to work for them. There are a few loops to jump through as you register in Niger, and no matter how quick the Niger Government has tried to make it, there are still a number of legal documents you will require.
1. The Articles of Incorporation of the Company: the instruments under private seal are authorized;
2. Proof of payment of the capital to a bank if the articles of incorporation are drawn up under private signature or Notarial Declaration of Subscription and Payment;
3. Certificate of Residence
4. A declaration on honor (form at Maison de l’Entreprise) or a criminal record dated less than three months (to be obtained at the courthouse of the place of birth or at the Niamey Court of Appeal, for foreigners)
5. Lease contract or title to the premises where the activity will be carried out
6. A handwritten application (stamped at 150 FCFA)
7. A declaration of existence (form at Maison de l’Entreprise)
8. Four (4) recent passport photos
This is a good first step to starting your business. But it is important to remember that the chamber is closed on weekends and has limited opening times on Fridays.
Establishing your own Office
Luckily for you there are no restrictions on foreign companies opening local offices in Niger but there are a few steps you will need to take first. Mainly, you will need to obtain yourself a business certificate from the Ministry of Commerce. The Guichet Unique, also known as the one-stop-shop, at Chamber of Commerce in Niger is the first place every business needs to visit. This one-stop-shop has committed to ensuring that registering your business is as simple as possible, this gives Niger an investor-friendly image for Niger, aiming to reduce the amount of time it takes to register a business in Niger to just 3 days.
As a Foreign investor to the country you will find that you need a notary to register and bring companies under the OHADA, “Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires”, which translates into English as “Organisation for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa”. This is the regional initiative to bring all the commercial codes in Francophone Africa under one roof. There are a few common legal forms of corporations as the branch of a foreign company but once registered a branch will be regard as a Nigerien judicial entity. The currency of Niger is the West African CFA franc, XOF, and a limited liability company is required to have minimal capital of CFA 1 million (this is approximately $2000) and at least a single shareholder. The minimum capital required to create a public corporation is CFA 10 million (approximately $20,000) with a minimum of one shareholder. Other types of business structures exist and include sole proprietorship, regional office, local agency and distributorship.
The Chamber of Commerce, agriculture, industry, and crafts, in Niamey and the regional capitals of Niger’s seven regions is responsible for the Guichet unique de formalités du commerce extérieur – GUFCE (Single Window for Foreign Trade Formalities). This chamber has three major tasks:
• ensuring compliance with the general import-export regulations
• informing and promoting awareness among economic operators regarding the aforesaid regulations
• Collecting information on trade based on the “statistical registration forms” required for all operations (Section (v)), except for petroleum products.
This GUFCE system in fact applies to all import, export, re-export and transit operations (except for cross border trade in the strict sense, small-scale operations for personal use, and imports for their own use by companies producing goods and supplying services).
An important factor for deciphering whether importing goods into Niger is profitable for your is the pricing of your goods. The costs and prices of goods and/or services can be fixed in an order by the Chamber of Commerce. These prices are fixed for all distribution, either in terms of absolute value or as a maximum profit margin in the lawful selling price by the seller. The key prices controlled in this way are those for petroleum, medical services, and pharmaceuticals supplied by the State. Petroleum product prices are set by the Chamber of Commerce but largely reflect world market prices. Other prices are set by the local and international market. The price of water is fixed in an agreement between the Government and the privatised company. The price of electricity is fixed by decree, pursuant to Article 10 of the Energy Code. U.S. exporters should price their products on a CIF (cost, insurance and freight) basis and request an irrevocable confirmed letter of credit.
Intellectual Property protection
Niger is one of the members of the West African Intellectual property organisation. This established the legal framework for protecting the IP (intellectual property) and it approves requests for registration. Protection will be initially granted for 10 years and will then be available for renewing for up to an additional 10 year. Niger is a signatory to the Paris Convention of 1983, this means that your property is protected under Nigerien patent and trademark laws to foreign businesses.
Niger is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention. In practice, however, the government lacks the capacity and resources to enforce copyright violations, and counterfeit CDs and videocassettes are readily available in most cities. Trade secrets can be adequately protected within individual business agreements in Niger. Despite limited resources, the Niger Copyright Office and Niger Customs make occasional efforts to enforce copyright laws, and have arrested counterfeiters and seized audio cassettes, CDs, DVDs and a disc burner. Given the profitability of copyright infringement, such episodic enforcement efforts are not a significant deterrent.
It is important to remember that every imported good into Niger has customs requirements. These regulations state that every regulated imported good must be accompanied by a conformity certificate and these are all needed to ensure customs clearance of shipments. The Certificate confirms that the products comply with the relevant Niger technical regulations, national, regional or international standards. If you have elected to work with a local agent, something we highly recommend you do, they will know all of these and work to ensure that you get your certificate of conformity quickly and easily. These agents will know all the local authority figures and will be able to work with them perfectly. However it is important to remember that the authorities in Niger may take random samples from imported goods to verify compliance.
The following goods are exempt:
• Arms and ammunitions, Scrap metal, and Live animals
• Personal effects and moving objects ( including engine vehicles if it’s complying with coming back residents
• Postal packages without commercial value and express courier
• Commercial samples
• Personal gifts
• Gifts from foreign government, foreign organizations or private persons in case of catastrophe
• Gifts and material imported for their own use diplomatic mission or consular
• Imports with a total value not exceeding 500,000 CFA
Working with WaystoCap—the First African focused B2B Marketplace
Now I am sure that the above may have come across as confusing and unwelcoming, and that’s because to an untrained eye it really is. Import processes for many, many countries are a complex thing, with numerous applicable regulations, rules, processes, and laws. The above information is not comprehensive, with many other laws and regulations existing that we haven’t mentioned here, and to import your goods legally, on time, and properly, you will need to ensure you work with someone who has in depth knowledge about the process in Niger.
That’s where Ways to Caps comes in handy. We are here to save your invaluable time by helping you work through the tiring Niger import process, step-by-step. Our background and expertise in the international trade business and laws of Niger are poised to perfectly 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. Get in touch with us today to get more information on working with us. We can launch your business today!