African Union Directors General of Customs address the role of Customs in the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area

20 September 2019

At the invitation of the African Union (AU) and Mr. Dicksons Kateshumbwa, Commissioner of Customs in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and WCO Council Chair, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the 11th Ordinary Meeting of the AU Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs (AUSCDGC), held in Kampala, Uganda on 19 and 20 September 2019.

After a brief address welcoming the Directors General and highlighting the key role their Customs administrations will play in implementation of the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Commissioner Dicksons Kateshumbwa invited the Commissioner General of the URA, Mrs. Dorothy Akol, to address the meeting.

In her opening speech, Mrs. Akol underscored the impact that the entry into force of the AfCFTA would have in shaping the future of the African continent, as implementation of this powerful tool would boost intra-African trade and economic development, unleashing the potential of an integrated continent.

In a speech delivered on behalf of His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, welcomed the AU’s theme of “Entry into force of the AfCFTA - Implications for African Customs administrations” and acknowledged the central role that Customs would play in effective implementation of the AfCFTA.   

In his address, Secretary General Mikuriya welcomed the entry into force of the AfCFTA as a beacon of progress and economic empowerment for Africa. From the perspective of economic integration and development, he emphasized the necessity of having Customs administrations at the forefront of the Continental Free Trade Area, particularly with regard to trade facilitation, consumer protection and border security. He reaffirmed the WCO’s commitment to supporting African Customs administrations through existing WCO initiatives such as the EU-WCO Harmonized System Programme for Africa, the Mercator Programme and the Security Programme.

After paying tribute to Mr. Souef Kamalidini, Director General of Comoros Customs and outgoing Chairperson of the AUSCDGC, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, restated that the theme for the year was a timely, relevant and critical one with respect to the role of Customs. He acknowledged the WCO’s dedication to supporting African Customs administrations and expressed the desire for continued fruitful cooperation. He reminded the Customs Directors General that 1 July 2020 was the date set for implementation of the AfCFTA and expressed the view that a single continental market would serve as a precursor for investment and industrialization. He continued by advocating for strong commitment to completing the remaining preparatory work, in order to pave the way for AfCFTA implementation.

As part of the important issues addressed, participants enjoyed an active panel discussion, during which Dr. Mikuriya shared perspectives on the key areas of the WCO’s work which would directly serve to support AfCFTA implementation. He noted that the WCO’s African Members had been working diligently to implement WCO instruments and tools, and would benefit from deeper cooperation between the WCO and the AUC.

Concluding with security matters, he encouraged participation in the upcoming WCO Global Security Conference with a special focus on Africa, scheduled to be held in Brussels on 11 and 12 December 2019.