First regional meeting of nCEN Programme Leaders for West and Central Africa

15 December 2020

The first regional meeting of nCEN Programme Leaders for West and Central Africa was held by the WCO as a virtual meeting due to the restrictions imposed by COVID‑19. Representatives of the eight African countries that use the WCO’s National Customs Enforcement Network (nCEN) attended the meeting, along with delegates from the WCO Secretariat and the Heads of the Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices for West Africa (RILO WA) and Central Africa (RILO CA), who were invited to take part as observers.

The nCEN application was launched by the WCO in 2013 and has been steadily growing in popularity with WCO Members ever since. It is currently deployed in 48 countries across the six WCO regions, including 11 countries in West and Central Africa.

Participants were given an overview of the latest developments in the Global nCEN Programme and the situation in terms of nCEN usage in Africa. The advances in the new nCEN version 3.3.0 were showcased at the meeting. These included a significant improvement in the automation of the software’s upgrading process, changes to the classification of offences under CITES, a new category of offences for cultural artefacts and an improved person search function.

Participants also discussed the scope of the work done by the nCEN Programme Leaders and exchanged ideas relating to possible improvements to the nCEN application.

The RILOs for West Africa and Central Africa expressed support for the nCEN Programme for the region. They added that the deployment and use of the nCEN remained a strategic priority for the region, given that most countries had no other enforcement databases at national level.

Participants also pointed to the importance of this first meeting of nCEN Programme Leaders. The meeting allowed them to examine the difficulties which the various countries might potentially encounter whilst implementing the programme. The meeting was also the best forum in which to discuss an optimum strategy for taking the nCEN Programme further at regional level.

Concerning strategic objectives, participants wanted to see local authorities made more aware of the nCEN, thereby ensuring that they operated to full capacity in support of national compliance and enforcement activities. Closer cooperation was needed between countries using the nCEN application, as well as greater information-sharing by Customs administrations, so as to ensure that regional enforcement needs were met.

The meeting concluded with Mali being unanimously elected as Regional nCEN Programme Leader.