ESA Region gathers to discuss progress achieved in the implementation of HS 2022

06 July 2022

On 28 and 29 June 2022, the WCO East and Southern Africa (ESA) Region gathered for a seminar to discuss progress achieved in the implementation of the seventh edition of the Harmonized System (HS), which entered into force on 1 January 2022. The seminar was hosted by the Ethiopian Customs Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and was organized within the framework of the EU-WCO Programme for Harmonized System in Africa (HS-Africa Programme), funded by the European Union.

The seminar brought together representatives of all main stakeholders of the HS implementation process: Customs administrations, Regional Economic Communities (COMESA, EAC, SACU and SADC), the AfCFTA Secretariat, the Africa Union Commission as well as the EU Delegation to the African Union. Officers of the ESA Regional Office for Capacity Building and the Regional Training Centres from Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe also attended the seminar.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Debele Kabeta Hursa, Ethiopian Customs Commissioner, highlighted the significance of the HS in ensuring the smooth flow of legitimate trade, a higher degree of market integration, and an environment conducive to modernization and investment. He expressed his appreciation to the WCO, the EU and the HS-Africa Programme for the assistance provided to Ethiopia, which had been vital in delivering timely implementation of the HS 2022 amendments in the country, based on the strategic approach developed with the support of the Programme.

Apart from discussions of the content of the HS 2022, participants shared experience of their organizations and countries on the implementation of HS amendments. Representatives of Botswana, Ethiopia, Mauritius, the EAC and the SACU offered presentations on transposition of Common External Tariffs and national tariff and statistical nomenclatures to new versions of the HS, highlighting the challenges faced in the process, solutions provided and lessons learned. The AfCFTA Secretariat presented an update on the state of implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area and the results achieved and stressed the paramount importance and relevance of the implementation of HS amendments for a successful AfCFTA implementation.

The seminar was an occasion to discuss digital transformation in Customs’ work related to tariffs and commodity classification by presenting some of the projects recently implemented in the region, namely the electronic tariff platforms in Eswatini and Lesotho. It was felt that such initiatives would make a tangible difference for all stakeholders involved in international trade by making accurate information on applicable duty rates easily available.

In conclusion of the seminar, a panel discussion on capacity building aspects of HS-related work was held, chaired by Mr. Larry Liza, ESA ROCB Director, with representatives of RTCs as panellists. During the discussion, emphasis was placed on the importance of reaching out to relevant stakeholders to deliver capacity building support, challenges brought by Covid-19, as well as ways of measuring training efficiency. Participants took note of the strategic guidance on competency development in the area of the HS, as well as new e-learning tools and the training package developed with the support of the HS-Africa Programme.

The seminar took stock of the progress achieved by the ESA Region on the implementation of the HS 2022, with three quarters of ESA Members having already migrated to the new version of the HS. The HS-Africa Programme pledged continued support for the countries and the RECs of the region and will keep delivering assistance to African partners and stakeholders, in accordance with its mandate.

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