Visit of former President Mbeki of South Africa to discuss the role of Customs in Africa

12 February 2014

Members of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, visited WCO Headquarters on 11 February 2014 to obtain input for their report and recommendations to African countries in order to harness Africa’s hidden resources for development. 

Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya explained the problems posed by cash couriers and trade-based money laundering (under-invoicing, over-invoicing, etc.) which had become major risk factors in Africa over the past decade as the continent had experienced economic growth largely based on the mining of its abundant natural resources. The Secretary General also referred to the need for countries to prioritize their policy regarding illicit financial flows and to provide adequate resources and a legal framework for Customs to establish controls in respect of free trade zones, thus enabling the Customs community to combat illicit trade and financial flows. 

The discussion also covered, more broadly, the contribution of Customs to economic and social development in Africa, including regional economic integration. Mr. Mbeki and the High Level Panel members acknowledged the crucial part that Customs plays in improving the business climate by ensuring connectivity at borders, evidenced by the recent WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation, as well as the role of Customs in ensuring transparency and security of the supply chain. They also appreciated the WCO approach of ownership-based capacity building which needed to be backed up by high-level political commitment.