East and Southern Africa region holds an extraordinary governing Council session

16 November 2020

At the invitation of Mr. Phodiso Valashia, Commissioner of Customs, Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), in his capacity as Vice-Chair for the WCO East and Southern Africa (ESA) region, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, participated in the ESA Extraordinary Governing Council held virtually on 12 November 2020.

In his opening remarks, the Vice-Chair extended a warm welcome to all Heads of Customs participating in the session and applauded them for adopting a collaborative approach towards supporting the region’s socio-economic development in the most appropriate manner at this challenging time. He underscored the important work done by the WCO as it continued to assist Customs administrations worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic by developing guidelines and standards to harmonize Customs procedures and facilitate trade, in addition to the provision of global capacity building support. The Vice-Chair highlighted the part to be played by Customs in accelerating Africa’s market integration and economic development under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and reiterated the readiness of the region’s Members to play critical supporting roles to this end.

Secretary General Mikuriya briefly updated the Governing Council on the immediate measures taken by the WCO in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included sharing best practices and providing Customs administrations with guidance to safeguard global supply chains, as well as conducting global enforcement operations such as “Operation STOP” against illegal trafficking linked to COVID-19. He noted that, with Members’ help, the WCO had ensured the continuity and advancement of its various working bodies through virtual meetings and document-based consultations. Major WCO events, such as the Technology Conference (TECH-CON) and the PICARD Conference, had also been reimagined as online events.

Secretary General Mikuriya then presented some of the topics for discussion at the upcoming WCO Council Sessions, highlighting:

  • important issues agreed on unanimously within the relevant working bodies, including: Guidance on Free Zones, Terms of Reference for the Counterfeiting and Piracy (CAP) Group meetings, E-Commerce Package, and Guidance on Small Island Economies; and
  • establishment of the Working Group on Passenger Facilitation and Control, development of the COVID-19 tool, and the topic of “Customs handling of dangerous goods”.

He invited Heads of Customs administrations to participate and contribute to the discussions and outcomes of the WCO Council Sessions in December 2020.

The meeting also heard comments by Mr. Larry Liza, Director of the ESA Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB). Following the presentation of reports by the Regional Steering Group and the Finance and Governance Committee, delegates went on to discuss the state of the region’s finances and the request for Members’ active participation in the work of the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO), so as to support and promote its performance within the region. The Governing Council reviewed the progress of activities carried out in accordance with the Regional Strategy and adopted several recommendations to guide and strengthen the Strategy’s implementation.

Secretary General Mikuriya joined with the Vice-Chair to thank all ESA Members for their participation as well as the regional structures for their collaboration and support with the WCO regionalization approach and capacity development efforts in the region.