WCO highlights the role of Customs in the implementation of the AfCFTA at TICAD 8 side event

25 August 2022

On 22 August, the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, participated as a panelist in an online side event titled “Deepening Regional Economic Integration, AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) and Trade Facilitation in the Post COVID era”, co-organized by the World Bank Group (WBG) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in the context of the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).

The TICAD is a summit-level international conference on African development, initiated by Japan in 1993. It is co-organized by the Government of Japan, the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the African Union Commission (AUC). The eighth conference, which will be held on 27 and 28 August, will revolve around three themes: achieving sustainable and inclusive growth with reduced economic inequalities, realizing a sustainable and resilient society based on human security and building sustainable peace and stability through supporting Africa’s own efforts.

The side-event saw the participation of high-level representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), JICA, the AfCFTA Secretariat, as well as the private sector. The speakers discussed the successful realization of the AfCFTA in the post-COVID era, as well as challenges, examples of efforts, potential solutions, and future directions for trade facilitation and border control in support of the AfCFTA. They also discussed on strategies to find a common understanding and foster momentum for deepening regional integration.

The event started with an opening remark by Mr. Ousmane Diagana, Regional Vice President of WBG and a keynote speech by H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of AfCFTA Secretariat. The latter elaborated on the AfCFTA Secretariat’s adoption of a corridor based approach and highlighted the importance of trade facilitation on corridors to fully implement the AfCFTA.

The Senior Advisor to the Secretary General of AfCFTA Secretariat, Ms. Gyang Demitta, introduced the current development status on the AfCFTA including E-Tariff book and Rules of Origin manual, which WCO supported to create. She also explained the importance of international partners, including the WCO, to implement the AfCFTA through a Memorandum of Understanding.

Supporting the corridor based approach, Mr. Toshiyuki Nakamura, Senior Vice President of JICA, mentioned the importance of enhancing capacity of Customs administrations, including the Master Trainer Programme and promoting the One Stop Border Post (OSBP).

The Deputy Director General for management and Reform of the IOM, Ms. Amy E. Pope, highlighted the importance of digitalization and a coordinated approach for the cross-border movement of people.

The CEO of Mandulis Energy, Mr. Peter BenHur Nyeko, expressed the private sector’s expectation regarding the increase in exportation by the AfCFTA.

Secretary General Mikuriya explained the current situation surrounding Customs administrations around the world, such as supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He expanded on the sharp rise of the number of the E-commerce packages, and emphasized the importance of an efficient trade management, supply chain resilience for the potential emergency in the future and Customs role, including the following aspects: digitalization of border procedures towards paperless trade and contactless clearance to keep supply chain open; Customs role in risk management at borders for public health and security; coordination among border agencies and cooperation between Customs and business; regional integration through application of tariff reduction based on the rules of origin to identify the eligibility of preferential tariff; capacity building for Customs administrations, in cooperation with the EU, JICA and other donors; Trade facilitation measures, including OSBP with standardized operations; and the interoperability of Customs IT systems for effective sharing information of data.

Dr. Mikuriya further talked about fragile borders and explained the need for the protection of Customs’ critical infrastructures from rebel/armed forces, as well as the importance of the incorporation of Customs administrations into the global intelligence community.

On the other hand, regarding regional integration, Dr. Mikuriya mentioned that it starts with the gradual reduction of Customs tariff. He enumerated the support that the WCO provides in this regard. He added that transparency and predictability are essential for business and that the WCO is supporting advance ruling and Authorised Economic Operator’s programmes, among others, to foster customs-business partnership in respective countries.

In conclusion, Dr. Mikuriya put a strong emphasis on the importance of capacity building for the implementation of international standards and the use of technologies. He mentioned the WCO’s efforts in developing a pool of Customs experts, in cooperation with JICA, in each area relating to the implementation of the AfCFTA. The experts will be expected to train other customs officers as well as private sector professionals.