Conference of Directors General of Customs of the West and Central Africa region

18 March 2019

At the invitation of the WCO Council Vice-Chair, Général de Brigade Toumany Sangaré, Director General of Guinea Customs, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the 24th Conference of Directors General of Customs of the West and Central Africa region, held in Bangui (Central African Republic) from 13 to 15 March 2019.

Mr. Henri-Marie Dondra, Minister of Finance and Budget, welcomed participants on behalf of the Government of the Central African Republic at the opening ceremony. He recognized the diversity of the issues to be debated by the Directors General of Customs in the region, which demonstrated the increasingly important role played by Customs, particularly with regard to economic development. He emphasized the need to address threats to economic competitiveness as well as the need to protect society from the scourge of terrorism and the trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals. He highlighted the necessity to improve Customs operations and working methods, and stressed the importance of information exchange both between administrations and with the private sector.

After extending his warm welcome to participants, the Director General of Customs of the Central African Republic, Mr. Frédéric Théodore Inamo, expressed his appreciation to the WCO for all the support provided to the region. He noted that the 24th Conference of Directors General of Customs was taking place in an international context marked by trade liberalization, terrorism threats and the ongoing challenge faced by Customs in balancing trade facilitation and security requirements. He highlighted the critical role played by technology and, in this connection, recognized the pertinence of the WCO theme for 2019 : “SMART borders for seamless Trade, Travel and Transport”.

Secretary General Mikuriya then presented the WCO’s key priorities, highlighting, among other things:

  • automation, data analytics, risk management, and the use of technology;
  • human resource management and development;
  • existing initiatives addressing emerging security threats;
  • performance measurement, including the work being carried out to ensure that the World Bank takes into account Customs' input when preparing the “Doing Business" report;
  • international cooperation, regional integration and interconnectivity;
  • the WCO Framework of Standards on cross-border e-commerce; and
  • the strategic review of key WCO instruments, such as the Harmonized System and the Revised Kyoto Convention.

In the course of the Conference, delegates heard a number of reports on the activities undertaken in the region over the past year, and those planned for the coming months. In addition, there was a particular focus during the Conference on:

  • Performance measurement and national experiences of using performance measurement tools, such as the WCO Time Release Study;
  • Progress achieved with regional security-related initiatives, such as "Sécurité par Collaboration (SPC++)" where the WCO West and Central Africa Security Project was highlighted, as well as the efforts aimed at countering the illicit trafficking of cultural objects;
  • Human resource management (HRM), with a focus on the achievements and progress of the WCO West African Customs Administrations Modernization Project funded by Sweden, including national experiences in implementing the project and the different tools available;
  • Developments with regard to pre-shipment inspection contracts, which were discussed at length, with several administrations sharing their national experiences and success stories in the development of internal Customs capacities;
  • The interconnection of transit systems, including advances as regards the development of the different existing systems and pilot projects;
  • Border management practices in the context of natural disasters and epidemics, presented by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), and progress in connection with the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area presented by the African Union.

In addition, delegates were updated on the implementation of the region's Strategic Plan 2018-2022 and its related road map.

Delegates unanimously endorsed Guinea and its Director General, Mr. Sangaré, to continue as the WCO Vice-Chair for the West and Central Africa region.

During a special ceremony held in the Presidential Palace, H.E. Mr. Faustin Archange Touadera, President of the Central African Republic, decorated Dr. Mikuriya with a medal and the distinction of Commander of the National Order of Merit of the Central African Republic. This decoration was also awarded to Mr. Sangaré, WCO Vice-Chair for the region, and to Mr. Inamo, Director General of Customs of the Central African Republic. Dr. Mikuriya expressed his sincere appreciation for this prestigious decoration which he considered to be a sign of recognition for frontline Customs officers around the globe, who work tirelessly and often under difficult conditions in order to contribute to economic and social development and to protect citizens from the threats posed by illicit trade and terrorism.