Capacity building remains a priority for the WCO West and Central Africa region

25 March 2013

At the invitation of Comptroller General Abdullahi Dikko Inde of Nigeria Customs in his capacity as Vice-Chair, Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya of the WCO participated in the WCO West and Central Africa Regional Meeting of Customs Directors General, held in Accra, Ghana on 21 and 22 March 2013.

The Meeting adopted the regional strategic plan for the period 2013-2017 and the associated roadmap for 2013, including renewing the mandates of the four regional task forces: IT development; strategic management; implementation of WCO instruments; and integrity and good governance. The Meeting also endorsed other regional matters, as prepared by experts meeting earlier in the week.

Directors General supported the WCO's draft Strategic Plan showing the Organization's mission and inter-linkage of all elements supporting the Customs mission. In terms of prioritization, while the focus of governments in the region remained revenue collection and increasingly also security, the Directors General recognized the mutually supportive nature and balance between the various WCO programmes.

In discussing the strategic review of the Harmonized System, participants recognized protection of society as the driving reason behind the proposal for greater identification of some specific products (e.g. certain chemicals), but urged that account be taken of the implementation capacity of their region, especially when it came to discussing the possible shortening of the review cycle.

The Meeting agreed that Nigeria would continue to serve as Vice-Chair for the region for the next year, and Benin and Ghana would be the region's Policy Commission members. In the event that the Director General of a Policy Commission member was unable to attend a particular Commission session, there was an undertaking that he/she would send a senior level official to ensure that the Administration was represented.

The participants expressed their appreciation for the excellent hospitality and the efficient organization of the Meeting by the host administration led by the Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, George Blankson, and the Commissioner of Customs, Mr. Carl Modey.

The President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, received the Heads of delegation on 22 March and listened to the report by Secretary General Mikuriya on the outcome of the Meeting. The Secretary General underlined the importance of political support for capacity building in respect of accession to and implementation of the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention, as well as the investment in people to ensure the  necessary expertise, professionalism and integrity that would enable progressive phasing-out of the outsourcing of core Customs competence.

Secretary General Mikuriya also stressed the importance of partnership with trade for better compliance, and explained donors' expectations for regional integration through support for Customs strategic planning. The President welcomed and took note of the report, while stressing the need for Customs to ensure transparency, integrity and respect for the law. He expressed support for the regional capacity building strategy and the WCO initiative to share best practice among the Members of the region.