New regional outlook for West and Central Africa
Brussels, 16 January 2009
At the beginning of this year, 21 West and Central African countries decided to build their Customs capacities by equipping the region with a World Customs Organization (WCO) Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB). This regional structure, located in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), has a sole objective: to foster regional initiatives and assist Customs administrations with their reform and modernization efforts, promoting the economic development of the countries in question as a result.
At the ROCB inauguration ceremony on 16 January 2009, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya recalled that “against the backdrop of the current global financial crisis affecting business, African countries have to safeguard fiscal revenue whilst facilitating trade and promoting private sector growth”. The President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo,
who received Customs representatives at the Presidential Palace, highlighted the importance of Customs in Africa by expressing his personal support for the WCO’s regional approach. Armand Nanga, the WCO Regional Vice-Chairperson and Director General of Senegalese Customs, stressed that “since the region now has a Regional Office, it is important that Members support it with the requisite human and financial resources”.
Now more than ever, Customs modernization forms part of economic development strategies, and in this context regional integration offers a wide range of opportunities.
The region is actually the most appropriate and best placed structure to seek and find joint solutions which will serve as a basis for Customs reform projects. Synergy also exists at regional level between services, players and partners from the private and public sectors with financial and human resources at their disposal.
The Abidjan ROCB’s functions will include :
- identifying regional needs and priorities, promoting the sharing of experiences and offering customized tools.
- helping Members to communicate and approach authorities and donors to express their modernization needs, by developing diagnostics and action plans.
European and Japanese Customs are supporting the WCO with the project launch. The Organization will continue to raise awareness among potential donors in the interests of African development.
15 of the region’s countries sent their Directors General of Customs or high-level representatives to attend the inauguration. Prior to this inauguration, the Secretariat held a working group meeting bringing together representatives of the Directors General of these countries and aimed at producing a regional capacity building action plan to strengthen strategic capacities, enhance human resource management and bolster the regional structure for sharing information on fraud.
List of Member countries of the West and Central Africa Region : Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Republic of), Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.