Perhaps you’ve heard that the economy of Togo has been expanding for several years after a period of economic and political isolation that lasted for nearly a decade. With the dream of transforming Lomé—the capital of Togo—into a regional trading center, Togo’s government has been implementing reforms and investing in significant infrastructure projects. With such moves increasing the appeal of the country, it’s possible that you’ve considered importing goods into Togo. If so, read on—we’ll take you through some of the steps you can expect when first starting out. This general guideline will give you a high-level overview of some of the processes you’ll experience when importing into this nation.
Register Your Business
Before doing anything else, you must first register your business in Togo. In the past few years, the Togolese government has substantially reduced the costs and complexities of opening a business in the country. In 2013, the government created a one-stop shop for establishing new businesses. Called the Centre de Formalite des Entreprises, this center is where you’ll file the necessary documents to register your business.
Because Togo is a member of the global network of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD’s) investment procedures, you can visit http://togo.eregulations.org for useful information about relevant governmental administrative procedures related to investment. You can also discover the names and contact information for in-country persons in charge of procedures, documents, costs, and processing times. This site is often updated and can be quite useful for you when starting out.
Remember to also register your business with the tax authorities to obtain your tax identification number. Without this, you cannot pay tariffs and duties, and without paying your taxes, you cannot clear your goods.
Obtain Your Import/Export Card
Getting your import/export card in Togo requires two separate processes. First, you’ll need to step into the trade registry of Togo. Bring with you:
• Three declaration slips for registration in the trade register;
• A copy of the installation authorization;
• A copy of your taxation certificate;
• A copy of your professional tax;
• A copy of your identity card;
• A copy of your company’s articles of association;
• Two copies of the certificate of citizenship;
• Two copies your birth certificate or stay card for non-nationals
• Two copies of your wedding certificate, if married; and
• Two copies of your police records, or one certificate of non-conviction for non-nationals.
The currency of Togo is the West African CFA franc, abbreviated as CFA F. The cost for registering in the trade record in Togo will be approximately CFA F 15,000 for companies and CFA F 10,000 for individuals.
Next, you’ll need to visit the Ministry of Trade, which will issue your Togolese import/export card. For this, if you’re a Togolese national, you’ll need:
• One application containing a revenue stamp of CFA F 500;
• One copy of your national identity card;
• One copy of the police record of your company’s manager and promoter (must be less than three months’ old);
• One copy of the completed questionnaire;
• One copy of the authorization of installation;
• One copy of the declaration for registration in Togo’s trade register (must have been signed by the Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, and Industry of Togo); and
• Your company’s tax number, issued by the Office of Tax.
If you are a non-national, you’ll also need to bring a copy of your passport, of your stay card, of your police record issued by your country of origin (this must be less than three months’ old), and a certificate of non-conviction, issued by the legal authorities in Togo. For Togolese and ECOWAS nationals, your payment will be CFA F 45,000. For non-nationals, you’ll pay CFA F 80,000 for your import/export card.
Finally, head over to the Office of Foreign Trade. Here, you will ask the office to issue the import intention (DPI) to you without any quality or value restriction. This import intention will be valid for six months. You may be able to renew it for one three-month period.
Purchase Local Trade Insurance, Hire a Clearing Agent, and Apply for Licenses
Importing your goods into Togo requires you to purchase local trade insurance. This trade insurance will help you to recover your lost expenses should you experience a covered loss while your goods are being shipped by air, sea, or land. You should also hire a clearing agent—a person who will be your liaison and manage many aspects of the import process on behalf of your company.
In Togo, as in many other countries, the government regulates certain imports. Some products may be completely off limits for importing into Togo, while other products will simply require that you obtain a license for the particular from the proper government agency prior to importing it. For instance, in an effort to lessen the trade of counterfeited goods, the Togolese government requires approval for all imported pharmaceutical products intended to be sold in local markets.
Register for Togo’s Single Window “Le Guichet Unique” Trade Portal
You may have heard of the single window for trade. The Togo government has established Le Guichet Unique—an online trade platform that brings together many of the stakeholders in the international trade scene in Togo. These include logistics groups, trade groups, and government agencies. The Single Window for Trade, or Le Guichet Unique, permit you to interact with and access government services related to your import. This trade portal facilitates the trade process 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 it. For more information on how to register and use the site, visit the 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
• Importation Intention Slip (DPI)
• Freight Invoice
• Statistics Records Slips
• Certificate of Movement or Free Practice
• Bills of Lading (B/L)
• Inspection Certificates from Bureau Veritas — BIVAC (all goods are subject to BIVAC inspection before embarking)
• Authorization of Temporary Admission
• Certificate of Origin
• Exit Justification
• Certificate of Quality or Packaging Control
• Sanitary or Phytosanitary Certificate, if Required
• Requisite licenses, if Needed
General Overview of Togolese Customs Clearance
You may be wondering: when do you go through customs and how does customs work? Fortunately for you, your clearing agent—the local guide you hired earlier—should be staying on top of many of these procedures. Still, you must be familiar with the processes and provide oversight to ensure that the proper steps are being completed in the right order and in a timely manner. As an importer, you will have 15 days total to clear your goods. If you haven’t cleared them by the 15th day, your goods will be stored in the customs storage warehouses.
Your supplier should ensure that all shipping documents are complete and accurate before the goods leave the country of origin. If problems exist on these documents, you will experience difficulty clearing them during the clearance process with customs. Before your goods can ship, they must be subjected to pre-shipment inspection (PSI), which is typically arranged by the supplier, who will hire BIVAC to oversee the process.
After PSI is completed, your supplier should forward all shipping documents and other required forms to your clearing agent, who will then forward all necessary documents to the customs officer. For any goods imported from countries outside of the franc zone that have a value in excess of five million CFA francs, the proceeds must be domiciled with a government-approved Togolese bank. The payment will be due prior to sign off on your import certificate. Once the customs office has verified the import certificate and determines that the details on the invoice and importation certificate conform to one another, the goods can be transferred.
You can find customs offices in Togo in the following locations:
• Lomé Port Office
• Lomé Aéroport Office
• Kwadjoviakopé Office
• Rafinery Office
• Customs Post Office Check Point
• Zone Franche Office
• Noépé Office
• Ségbé Check Point
• Zolo Check Point
• Batoumé Check Point
• Sanvée Condji Office
• Kpémé Office
While your documents are at the customs office, the staff will be reading through and verifying them for accuracy and to ensure that the details conform with all legal requirements. Your clearing agent will likely need to fill out and execute a few forms and documents through Le Guichet Unique. Once this is complete, your customs officer will validate any release order that has been given and issue the exit note to your agent.
Payment of Import Duty and Clearance
For each shipment of goods you import into Togo, you must pay taxes and duties. Togo belongs to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Starting in 2015, ECOWAS began enforcing 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. Depending on the nature and origin of your goods, the amount of your CET will range from 0 to 35% of the value of your imports. For instance, drugs and books are levied at 0%, whereas all final consumption goods that are brought in from outside of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) zone are levied at a whopping 20%. Importers must also pay an 18% value-added tax (VAT) upon entry.
After your duties and taxes have been settled and your goods have successfully passed through inspection and customs, you can finally collect your items and get to work selling them!
Partner with Ways to Cap—the First African focused B2B Marketplace
Does the above seem a bit confusing and time consuming to you? That’s because it is for most people. Import processes in many countries can be complex, with many applicable regulations, rules, processes, and laws. What you’ve read about the Togolese import process is not comprehensive—numerous other regulations, rules, and instructions exist that you must adhere to when importing into Togo. To ensure that your goods arrive properly, legally, and on time, you will need someone who has in depth knowledge about the import/export process in Togo.
That’s where Ways to Cap steps in. We will save you valuable time by guiding you through Togo’s import process, step-by-step. With our background and expertise in the international trade business in Togo 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.
Guide for Exporting in Togo, investor en zone franc, http://www.izf.net/content/guide-exporting-togo.
Togo, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State, 29 June 2017, https://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2017/af/269791.htm.
Togo Regulations, CMA CGM, 11 February 2015, https://www.cma-cgm.com/static/eCommerce/Attachments/Togo%20021115.pdf.