WCO/SACU – IT Connectivity and Data Exchange

02 May 2012

WCO/SACU – IT Connectivity and DataExchange

- Article published in cooperation with SARS -

On the occasion of International Customs Day, in January earlier this year, the World Customs Organisation dedicated 2012 as the year of “Connectivity”, which encapsulates people connectivity, institutional connectivity and information connectivity among the members of the global Customs community.

At the end of February 2012 delegates from the WCO, SACU, UNCTAD, SADC and COMESA gathered in Pretoria to discuss and deliberate over an approach to implement ‘IT connectivity’ within the Southern African region. This event was hosted by the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) and graciously funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency SIDA and SARS.

During the first week representatives from UNCTAD, SACU and SARS were briefed on important developments at the WCO on IT-Interconnectivity and Information Exchange were Mr. Satya Prasad Sahu from the WCO presented the developments towards finalization of a future international customs standard called “Globally Networked Customs” (GNC). This process entails a structured approach that will enable customs authorities to formulate and document bilateral or regional ‘standards’ on a variety of Customs-to-Customs topics, for instance Authorized Economic Operators, Cross Border Information Exchange, Risk Management, etc.

A representative from UNCTAD presented a synopsis of the proposed ‘cloud computing solution’ which the Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) plans to pilot between Namibia and Botswana along the TKC route in the next few months. During the course of this week, delegates, under the guidance of Mr. Sahu, prepared a proposed approach for information exchange between members of the Southern African Customs Region. This document is based on the WCO GNC Utility Block and served as the basis for discussion for Week 2.

Week 2 saw the arrival of customs and IT representatives from COMESA, SADC, UNCTAD, SACU as well as a delegation from Mozambique Customs. Mr. Sahu was invited to chair the session, given his vast experience on the subject matter as well as international experience in national and regional customs ICT programmes. Delegates were treated to various lectures on the GNC, a comprehensive overview of developments on ASYCUDA (Customs solution developed by UNCTAD), various updates from within the customs region – Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and SARS. Mr. Beyers Theron from SARS informed delegates of ongoing developments of the SARS Customs Modernization Programme as well as key implications for neighboring countries. SARSpresenteda live demonstration of SARS’ Service Manager solution, navigating through all the functionality now available to SARS Customs officials. Of significant interest to all was the new iPod inspection tool. This technology is given prominent feature in the latest edition of WCO News.

A large portion of the week was, however, spent on deliberating the proposed scope and content of the draft Utility Block on Information Exchange in the Southern African Region. Significant progress was made to attain first, a common understanding of the scope as well as the implications this has for participating countries. Delegates will return home with a product with which to create awareness andsolicitsupport in their respective countries. Over the next few months SARS will engage both SACU and SADCOM (combined SADC and COMESA trading blocs) to establish firm commitments for information exchange with customs administrations in these regions. This conference is significant for SARS and South Africa as a whole as it provides a uniform, standardized and practical approach for engagement with other international trading partners.