Governing Council Meeting of the WCO East and Southern Africa Region

07 May 2021

At the invitation of Mr. Philiso Phodiso Valashia, Commissioner of Customs, Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), and WCO Vice-Chair for the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Region, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, participated in the 27th ESA Governing Council Meeting, held virtually on 6 May 2021.

In his opening remarks, Secretary General Mikuriya expressed his sincere gratitude to the Regional Vice-Chair for the invitation to take part in the Meeting and highlighted the role played by the WCO in supporting the ESA region during this challenging time. He went on to describe the WCO’s immediate priorities as outlined in the COVID-19 Action Plan for the next 18 months, from January 2021 to June 2022, and elaborated on the Organization’s new working methods through a brief presentation.

Prior to the official opening of the Governing Council Meeting, the Heads of all the ESA Customs Administrations were joined by Dr. Mikuriya to watch footage of the virtual signing ceremony for a Host Country Agreement, which took place on 3 May 2021, conferring legal status to the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) ESA, located in Nairobi, Kenya. At the signing ceremony, the Government of the Republic of Kenya was represented by the Honorable Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and the WCO ESA Region was represented by its Vice-Chair, Mr. P. P. Valashia.

The Vice-Chair welcomed all Governing Council Members and looked back on a difficult year that had resulted in tragic loss of life within the regional Customs community, including the passing of Mr. Happias Kuzvinzwa, former Commissioner of Customs, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. A minute’s silence was held in his honour. Mr. Valashia went on to stress that the region now faced the process of recovering from the pandemic. Accordingly, Customs administrations were expected to make a significant contribution to bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain by implementing the ESA Regional Strategy.

The Vice-Chair acknowledged the invaluable support provided by the WCO to the region through leadership, guidance and exploring new working methods to maintain capacity building delivery to the Organization’s Members. He also expressed great appreciation to the ROCB and other regional bodies for their tremendous contributions to the ESA Region and its Governing Council. Mr. Valashia went on give an account of his stewardship and achievements during his tenure as Vice-Chair, which would come to an end in June 2021.  

The Meeting also heard comments by Mr. Larry Liza, Director, ROCB, WCO ESA Region, who presented the ESA Annual Report 2020-2021. In addition, the Governing Council was apprised of the content of reports by the Regional Steering Group (RSG) and the Finance and Governance Committee (FGC). These reports enabled the Meeting to review progress with the implementation of the Regional Strategy and to make recommendations and decisions for further action.

In his closing remarks, Secretary General Mikuriya joined the Vice-Chair to thank the ESA Heads of Customs for taking part in the Meeting. He took note of the points raised during the discussions in relation to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement and migration to the Harmonized System (HS) 2022, and assured the audience of the WCO’s continuous support and assistance through the delivery of capacity building projects and programmes.