WCO supports initiatives for Intra-African Trade during the Africa Trade Week

02 December 2016

At the invitation of H.E. Mrs. Fatima Haram Acyl, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, African Union (AU) Commission, the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, spoke at the Africa Trade Facilitation Forum during the Africa Trade Week. The event, held at African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) on 1 and 2 December 2016, was attended by numerous trade ministers and representatives from international organizations, Customs and businesses.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Mikuriya re-iterated WCO's support for the “Boost Intra-African Trade” (BIAT) initiative and the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) in Africa.  Given the low share of intra-regional trade in Africa in the early 2010s, standing at 12%, compared with 70% in Europe and 50% in Asia at that time, the AU estimated there should be higher intra-African trade in the era of the Global Value Chain (GVC) and had consequently launched the BIAT and CFTA initiatives in early 2012. 

Dr. Mikuriya explained that the WCO had helped revive the AU Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs and offered the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) and other tools in support of the BIAT initiative and in preparation for the CFTA.  As the high-level principles of the RKC are incorporated in the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA), the RKC was proposed to guide the AU's BIAT initiative in the same way as it was already guiding TFA implementation.

The Secretary General went on to outline some of the WCO's initiatives in relation to the TFA, namely the launch of the Mercator Programme in 2014 to provide tailor-made capacity building and technical assistance to Customs for TFA implementation, and which also addressed the BIAT initiative and regional integration. In addition, the WCO collaborate with the AU to develop a pool of experts on the African continent to support TFA implementation. Other WCO initiatives were highlighted, such as the development of Transit Guidelines, which would enhance trade facilitation and help boost intra-African trade, as well as the WCO's work in the area of Customs-Business Partnership, including Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programmes, initiatives for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and Coordinated Border Management (CBM).

During his intervention at another panel session on Customs Reform and the BIAT initiative, alongside five African Customs administrations, Dr. Mikuriya shared best practices and lessons learned by Customs on border control and transport connections.