Bangui, 8-9 November 2012
At the invitation of the Director General of Customs, Alain Fred Pépin Bonezouï, the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, visited Bangui, Central African Republic from 8-9 November 2012 to garner more political support for Customs modernization in the country and in the region.
The Minister of Finance, Albert Besse, welcomed him upon his arrival and expressed his readiness to work with the WCO to further accelerate Customs modernization in the country. Later, the President of the Republic, François Bozizé, received the Secretary General to express his strong commitment to Customs reform, based on the progress made in recent years.
In response, Secretary General Mikuriya asked the President to support the strategic plan for Customs that was about to be finalized in consultation with the WCO and to support the stability of Customs' management in ensuring steady implementation of the plan. This approach was supported widely by the international community, including the IMF which had also been helping the strategic planning process in close collaboration with the WCO.
President Bozizé welcomed the Secretary General's consultation with business, noting that Customs could contribute to improving the business environment by providing efficient border procedures, thereby promoting trade and investment. With regard to human resource development to which the President attached great importance, the Secretary General undertook to expand the local pool of experts and informed him that he had mobilized WCO regional resources to strengthen Customs’ human resources by inviting the head of the WCO Regional Office for Capacity Building in Abidjan and the heads of the WCO Regional Training Centres in Brazzaville and Ouagadougou to join him on his visit.
Subsequently, Secretary General Mikuriya had a consultation session with business representatives who pointed out that simplification of border procedures, better use of information technology (ASYCUDA), an electronic payments system and the phase-out of private company involvement in Customs matters were among the top priorities to improve the business climate. They fully supported the progress that was being made on Customs reform.
Later, the Secretary General conveyed the concerns of business to the Prime Minister, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, and suggested several measures to solve the problems. The Prime Minister appreciated the advice and committed to finding solutions and further strengthening his country's engagement with the WCO and its activities.
The Secretary General was also received by the President of the National Assembly, Célestin Leroy Gaombalet, who was accompanied by key Members of Parliament. Having started his career as a Customs officer, the President expressed his full support for Customs modernization and his sympathy for Customs officers who needed better working conditions.
Separately, Secretary General Mikuriya visited the headquarters of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and agreed to enhance cooperation with this regional community in many areas, including updating the regional Customs Code and modernizing the transit system.
As the Central African Republic expects to improve its corridor linking it with neighbouring countries, the role of CEMAC in ensuring the harmonization and simplification of Customs procedures based on WCO standards, improving Customs cooperation and enhancing interconnectivity between Customs computer systems in the region is vital for its six Member States to ensure connectivity at borders. He also visited the CEMAC Customs School to seek more synergy between it and the WCO regional structure.
The Secretary General concluded his visit by addressing all Customs officers in Bangui on the outcome of his series of meetings and encouraged them to join the global Customs family in making progress towards increasing their knowledge, ensuring integrity and enhancing their professionalism; all worthy goals for Customs officers in the 21st Century.