Success and Failure in eGovernment Projects

Success/Failure Case Study No.13

Integrated Information System for Trade at Douala Autonomous Port

Case Study Author

Kenhago Tazo Olivier (


This project is rooted in an automated transaction processing system that links together key activities in the operations of the port. It is based on a PC client/server system.

Application Description

The system integrates the key processes in port operations. It provides automated support for clearance of imports/exports, payment of import/export duties and other taxes, and delivery of release orders for shipments to leave the docks. Payment of taxes and duties is undertaken direct to authorised banks so that cash is not handled by port staff. An encrypted file verifying the payment is sent from the bank to Customs; this is automatically matched against the amount payable and a release order is then generated.

Application Purpose

The application was developed for a number of purposes:


The main stakeholders are the port authorities; the Customs service; the banks; businesses that trade; and intermediaries and fixers in the trade process.

Impact: Costs and Benefits

The application cost US$1.5m in total; US$1m paid by the European Union, US$0.5m paid by the Cameroon government. There has been no particular increase in trade so far at Douala port, but the system does appear to have cut time costs significantly. Port authorities report that overall import/export operations typically took 15 days prior to computerisation.. By 2001, this had come down to three days, and by 2002, it had come down to two days. The Customs service reports that its component of operations typically took three days to process for one traded item; procedures now take around four hours. Collection of payment previously took around two days; it now takes around one hour. The banks similarly report improvements. At Citibank, around 100 payments are now processed per day. There was previously a backlog of up to four months in payment reconciliation and remittance to the government Treasury. Now the entire process is completed within one working day and there are no backlogs. There is no solid evidence about growth in the actual level of tax/duty collection; about fraud/corruption; or about transparency/accountability.

Evaluation: Failure or Success?

The system can be given an interim evaluation of partial success, mainly due to the lack of evidence related to a number of the initial objectives.

Enablers/Critical Success Factors

  1. External pressure and support . There is a requirement signed into global trade covenant compelling countries to undertake such trade reforms. This pressure can be taken together with the financial and technical support provided to the project by both the EU and the IMF.
  2. Political will . There was a strong resolve at high levels in the Cameroon government to improve governance of Customs, and to reduce burdens on business.
  3. Dialogue . Planning of the system did incorporate a dialogue with business leaders as well as other stakeholders.


  1. Internal resistance . Introduction of the system has met with resistance from many of the public servants involved, particularly those working in the Customs service.
  2. External resistance . The previous system incorporated various 'fixers' and 'middlemen' for whom there is no intended role in the new system; they have therefore been active in trying to undermine the performance of the current system.
  3. Culture of corruption . There was a strong current of corruption and weak management within the port system that has been difficult to eradicate.


  1. Address corruption with more than just computers . Computerisation alone will not root out corruption; it must be seen as part of a much broader attack on corruption. That attack must understand the motivations for corruption among public servants, and must seek to directly address and modify those motivations through appropriate incentives and sanctions.

Further Information


Case Details

Outcome : Partial Success/Partial Failure. Reform : eSociety (working better with business).
Sector : Economic Services (Commerce).
Region : Central Africa. Start Date : 1999. Submission Date : August 2002

Last updated on 19 October, 2008.
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