WCO participated in a training session for French-speaking mid-level African Customs officials

10 May 2021

The World Customs Organization (WCO) participated in a training session organized on 23 April 2021 by the Belgian Customs Training Centre for French-speaking mid-level African Customs officials (Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Comoros, Gabon, Mali and Niger).  The WCO provided two presentations: one on the EU-WCO Programme for Harmonized System in Africa (HS – Africa Programme) and the other related to Rules of Origin (RoO) in the African context.

The Belgian Customs Training Centre organizes a 10-month training course for French-speaking mid-level African Customs officials every year.  The training focusses on Customs techniques, in particular, the HS, RoO, valuation, but also on Customs legislation and procedures.  The current course started in October 2020 and will last until June 2021.

Sixteen Customs officials from six African countries participated actively in the discussions throughout the session, which was facilitated by two experts from the WCO Secretariat.

During the session, a presentation on the HS-Africa Programme provided an overview of Programme’s main objectives and the results achieved to date, the context in which the activities are carried out as well as the perspectives of the action.  A brief introduction of a new HS e-learning course soon to be finalized by the Programme was shared with the participants.

Regarding the AfCFTA RoO, the presentation covered the scope of the AfCFTA Negotiations and the update on AfCFTA Rules of origin such as origin conferring criteria, origin certification, methods of verification and the challenges and opportunities.  In addition to this, the pending issues under negotiations contained in Annex 2 - Rules of Origin were addressed.

The discussion highlighted, among others, that the correct understanding and application of the Harmonized System as well as the preferential rules of origin are key to better implementation and utilization of the AfCFTA RoO.  This will be achieved by building more expertise in origin matters, conducting more trainings and enhancing the stakeholders’ engagement.

Many participants noted that the session was an eye-opener and that they would raise awareness in their home administrations upon their return about the importance of correct understanding of the Harmonized System and the relevance of the HS-Africa Programme as well as the AfCFTA rules of origin.