Digitalising foreign trade procedures and boosting innovation in Morocco with PortNet

Over the past decade, Morocco digitalised almost all its foreign trade procedures through PortNet: the national single window for foreign trade. PortNet is an information system serving the port community and foreign trade stakeholders, and is the result of a strategic alliance between Moroccan ports and international trade communities to implement a tool aimed at simplify and digitalise the country’s international trade chain.

The 4th  Policy Lab organised by INSME in the context of THE NEXT SOCIETY project, in collaboration with the EU-funded project MED MSMEs, was the occasion to explore how PortNet was implemented and how it operates, its future goals, and the replicability of this inspiring project.

      COUNTRY

Morocco

       ORGANIZATIONS IMPLEMENTING THE PROJECT
  • PortNet S.A.
  • National Ports Agency “ANP”
  • Moroccan Customs “ADII”
  • Ministry of Foreign Trade
  • Moroccan Freight Forwarders Association “AFFM”
  •  Moroccan Exporters Association “ASMEX”
  • Federation Association of national Associations of ShipBroker and Agents
  • Moroccan Agency for Logistics Development “AMDL”
  • General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises “CGEM”
       START & END DATE OF THE PROJECT

2008, no ending date.

      TARGET GROUP

● Importers
● Exporters
● Freight Forwarders
● Shipping Agents
● Handlers
● Banks
● Administrations
● Shippers

      AIMS OF THE PROJECT

PostNet’s aim is to simplify and digitalise international trade procedures, allowing more and more companies to export while enhancing the competitiveness of Moroccan foreign trade and logistics through technology and community intelligence.

     METHODOLOGY
  • The trade and logistics platform PortNet is specific to Morocco but inspired by the Singaporean model. PortNet was set up in accordance with international standards and following the international recommendations of UNCEFACT, the OMD, and the OMC for the establishment of single windows.
  • A client-centric organisation, with service customised according to the need of the user.
  • Inclusive collaboration between actors of the community, a sound public-private partnership.
  • A resilient infrastructure, important to ensure continuity for businesses, that respects standards thus ensuring the interoperability of the platform.
  • Agile solutions for all types of businesses (micro, small, medium) put in place by 60 employees, aged 30 years old on average, with computer science, engineering, or business backgrounds.
  • By effective dialogue, maintained with all parties involved in trade facilitation and, through innovation, the use of technology, and community intelligence. This includes holding national change management workshops in collaboration with all stakeholders in the international trade community, focus groups, B2B meetings, committees, and workshops.
  • PORTNET S.A. has also developed an IT service center, named PortNet S.A.
    Business Unit, a human platform, software to implement internal and external digital projects for the benefit of the ecosystem as well as for the transfer of technology and for the establishment of Single Window of Foreign Trade. This entity represents an autonomous, innovative and agile Digital LAB, regardless of technology and services. Among other things, it enables: Managing PortNet S.A. and partners services through an intern system and an external system, building new services offerings and creating added value. Indeed, this entity is an operational accelerator in the construction of PortNet’s strategic roadmaps, making real the innovative ideas and a revealer of the feasibility of the ideas brought by all PORTNET S.A. employees and its ecosystem community.
     RESULTS ACHIEVED

Today, PortNet delivers, through more than 120 innovative community services, a real competitive advantage to its ecosystem of more than 55,000 users from administrations, institutions, and companies across the country: 10 public administrations, 11 ports in Morocco, 20 financial institutions and covers 70% of the supply chain in the country.

Moreover, Morocco has improved its Doing Business 2017 ranking of 7 places from 75th to 68th place due to PortNet, and in the first quarter of 2021, positioned 20th in the UNCTAD Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI), which measures the extent to which a country is connected to the rest of the world (it was ranked 85th in 2006).

Dematerialized exchanges via PortNet have enabled Morocco to save nearly 800,000 trees annually, reducing paper consumption and CO2 emissions:  the equivalent of the annual consumption of 7,735 households in terms of freshwater, 42,053 households in terms of electricity, and 15,727 households in terms of waste.

The platform contributes to improving the business climate, trade, port, and logistics competitiveness of Morocco, thanks to:

  • End-to-end integration of the international trade chain.
  • Faster trade processes: before PortNet, procedures for exports lasted 2-3 days, as they needed to collect paper documents from shippers, analyze them and submit them to the shipping lines. Today, PortNet allows to finish all the procedures in 15-20 minutes: such breakthrough frees up resources and time for companies, allowing them to be more consumer-centric.
  • A resilient platform for a simpler, transparent, and secure supply chain.
  •  A successful model for the national partnership between government and the private sector.
  • The National Single Window of Foreign Trade Procedures PortNet has won several national and international awards and has been awarded 4 times on the occasion of the editions of the National Grand Prix of Electronic Administration, E-mtiaz in 2012, 2015, 2018, and 2019.
      KEY CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTING THE INITIATIVE AND SOLUTIONS USED TO MITIGATE THEM
  • Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) for the development of digital platforms need to have strong governance, with clear and transparent objectives.
  • Involving SMEs and convert them into digital, paperless procedures for export was not an easy task: easy and frequent communication and training courses for entrepreneurs were fundamental to engage companies and people to conduct change.
  • The early-stage involvement of the private sector is crucial to increase participation and to establish milestones together, fulfill the international requirements, protocols, and standards to ensure interoperability and compliance with the law.
  • Covid-19: PortNet served as a powerful tool against Covid: businesses in the PortNet network and their customers, were already used to having removed in-person contacts (up to 80% fewer contacts), and this proved beneficial both in reducing infections and in not having to adjust to a new business system.

      LESSONS LEARNED

Customer satisfaction, collaboration, continuous improvement of the platform, and feedback collection during the initial phase are key factors of success. The challenge is succeeding in developing the skills and digital competencies of stakeholders, accompanying them when services are upgraded through continuous training sessions.

     SUSTAINABILITY OF THE INITIATIVE AND POTENTIAL REPLICABILITY

The PortNet platform will run indefinitely.

Based on its community governance, the collaborative nature of its digital services, and its integrated coverage of supply chain processes, PortNet has become, over a short period of time, a model and an international reference in the implementation of single windows for external trade and community port and logistics systems.
The replicability of the initiative and the feasibility of implementation in other countries have already drawn the attention of other nations and organizations, which were inspired by PortNet and would like to transfer the model elsewhere: UNCEFACT, ASEAN, AACE, IPCSA, COMCEC, UKRAINE, IRAQ, KENYA, ABU DHABI, and others.

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