Launch of WCO West Africa Security Project

15 March 2021

On 15 March 2021, the World Customs Organization (WCO) announced the formal commencement of its West Africa Security Project, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office. It forms part of a German Government initiative, aimed at facilitating support for partner States with a focus on security sector reform.

This Project marks the first formal cooperation between German Customs and the WCO in relation to Border Security matters. In the initial phase of the Project the beneficiary countries will include Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Ghana. The aim is to build on and sustain the recent WCO-funded security activities and assistance in the region, delivered under the WCO’s Security Project for West and Central Africa. Through this Project, the WCO has provided a range of detection equipment, nCEN training and other training relating to improvised explosive device (IED) detection and border security preparedness.

“I have noticed a gradual shift in priority in the West and Central Africa (WCA) region from focusing purely on revenue collection towards embracing the border security aspect, based on my regular meetings with Directors General in the region,” stated Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General. He underscored that “without efficient security controls at borders, administrations will not be able to collect revenue or facilitate legitimate trade. In advancing towards the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the West Africa Security Project will assist Customs administrations in securing supply chains and protecting them from terrorists or violent insurgents.” 

Secretary General Mikuriya further added that “in 2015, following the adoption of its Punta Cana Resolution which acknowledges the role to be played by Customs in the security field, the WCO developed and made available to its Members a range of security-related training materials and guidance, and hosted, in 2019, the Africa Security Conference in order to hear the views of Customs administrations in Africa on global security issues, and further address them.”

“It gives me great pleasure to launch this initiative, which marks the first project in the West Africa region entered into by the German Customs Administration”, noted Mrs. Hercher, President of the German Central Customs Authority. She added that through this initiative, the German Customs Administration was embarking on a new path. “I am therefore delighted to have the WCO as a committed project partner by our side, as its project experience and contacts in this region will add a great deal of value to this initiative.”

Mrs. Hercher went on to say that “the project will also benefit from the WCO’s international Customs standards. In addition to this important cooperation with the WCO, I wish to highlight the broader cooperation potential that can be opened up through this initiative and express my support for the modernization strategies of Customs administrations in the West Africa region.”

The Project will complement the counter-terrorism Action Plans or policy statements for the region developed by the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The principal aim is to improve Customs security- and trade-related procedures so that the supply chain of goods into and across the region can be controlled effectively, thereby restricting access to IED precursor chemicals and components, as well as small arms and light weapons (SALW), whilst also identifying illicit trade in goods and cash which may be used to finance terrorism in these countries.

The Project will initially focus on a “diagnostic phase” during which the situation in the major ports, airports and land borders serving the region in Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, and Ghana will be assessed in order to establish how enhanced revenue- and security-related Customs procedures can be implemented in those facilities. This phase will also look at how, through the enhanced use of nCEN and other intelligence tools, higher-risk shipments of IED precursor chemicals and components, as well as SALW and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) components, can be profiled effectively.

Furthermore, the data collected during this initial phase will be used to strike the right balance between the awareness-raising, training and operational activities to be provided under the Project over the following years. This will be communicated to Directors General from the WCA region, via both an implementation report and a high-level engagement event to be held later this year, which will assess the challenges to be addressed and discuss the need for further action.

To find out more about the West Africa Security Project or the WCO Security Programme, please contact: WestAfricaSecurityProject@wcoomd.org.