WCO Organizes Security Conference Addressing Security Challenges in Africa

17 December 2019

Under the umbrella of the West and Central Africa Security Project the World Customs Organization (WCO) hosted a Security Conference entitled, ‘African perspective on security challenges’ at the WCO headquarters in Brussels. The conference which took place from 11 to 12 December 2019, brought together more than 150 delegates from more than 50 countries and organizations to discuss the security challenges impacting the work of Customs in Africa.

The conference was opened by the two conference Chairs, Mr. Francois Richard from French Customs and Mrs. Ronke Olubiyi from the Nigerian Customs Service who provided an introduction on the aims and objectives of the conference and introduced the three keynote speakers.

In his keynote speech the WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya welcomed delegates to the WCO and thanked them for attending the conference. The Secretary General highlighted how the Punta Cana Resolution encouraged Customs to go beyond its traditional mandate of revenue collection by expanding their activities to address security threats.  He went on to note that Customs have a lot to offer to other law enforcement agencies working on the safety and security of borders and expressed the need for increased use of data, data analytics and emerging technologies to more effectively reduce security threats at the border.

The Secretary General’s presentation was followed by a keynote speech by Mr. Dicksons Kateshumbwa, Director General of Uganda Customs and current WCO Council Chair. Mr. Kateshumbwa noted the importance of security as one of the nine priority goals of the WCO. He also discussed the security challenges facing Africa particularly at fragile borders, conflict zones and post conflicts zones which have led some borders in the region to be closed down.

In his keynote speech H.E. Mr. Shimokawa Japans Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and NATO discussed Japan’s commitment to addressing security threats in Africa and the rest of the world. Japan’s commitment to addressing security threats is evidenced through the financial support they have provided to the WCO’s two regional security projects the Asia Pacific Security Project and West and Central Africa Security Project.

Throughout the rest of the Conference delegates were able to listen to presentations from various security experts from Customs, law enforcement/defense, international organizations, academic institutions and NGO’s active in the field of security in Africa. Some of the key topics that where addressed during the event include the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) including their chemical precursors, component parts and biological agents that may be used in IEDs. In addition participants listened to presentations on other emerging security related topics such as the threat of counterfeit medicines and the increased use of Tramadol within Africa as well as presentations which addressed various forms of illicit trade and financial flows and their impact on security within the region. 

During the closing session of the conference delegates took stock of the wide variety of discussions and challenges that were reflected upon during the previous two days and discussed the way forward for Customs in the area of security for the coming decade. A representative from the conference will present the key challenges and outcomes highlighted during the conference during the upcoming 40th Session of the Enforcement Committee.