WCO supports Uganda in enhancing its AEO programme and validation capacity

02 August 2022

The WCO and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), as part of their Trade Facilitation and Customs Modernization Programme for Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, organized a five-day capacity building programme from 11 to 15 July 2022 in Kampala for Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) officials.  The purpose was to enhance Uganda’s Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programme and build the necessary internal capacity, particularly with regard to validation of AEO security criteria in line with the SAFE Framework of Standards and Article 7.7 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).  This hands-on training programme was attended by 36 participants from various Customs divisions, namely: AEO, Post Clearance Audit (PCA), Risk Management, Enforcement, and Ports/Border Points. 

In his opening remarks, the Commissioner of the Customs & Excise Department said: “Security of the supply chain is crucial to all of us and that is why URA has requested technical training and capacity building of AEO validators in this area.  The training will ultimately lead to an increased number of security validations on operators, increased efficiency and effectiveness in the practical application of full AEO accreditation, and an increased number of AEOs under different categories, as well as improved facilitation and trade through the AEO programme.”

After reviewing the current state of play and assessing specific needs, WCO-accredited experts from India and South Africa provided practical approaches and validation techniques to participants, through interactive sessions and group exercises.  One of the main focus areas was how to enhance the AEO programme by recognizing the specificities of businesses in Uganda.  The aim was to reskill and upskill validators and related teams to have a flexible and customized approach to documentation, including the Application and Self-Assessment Questionnaire, as well as risk assessment and validation attuned to various business models, such as MSMEs and economic operators.  To that end, key validation issues and methodologies were examined for economic operators, and related national and regional goods practices shared.

Participants also received technical information on practical implementation with regard to cargo security, premises security, personnel security and IT security validation techniques and best practices.

In terms of the involvement of other government agencies (OGAs) in the URA AEO programme, the experts outlined potential opportunities, benefits and processes for engaging with OGAs in order to scale up the current AEO programme to a national AEO programme.  The participants, guided by the experts, also had an opportunity to work on an on-site validation of an applicant economic operator.

The enhanced capacity will help URA update its current Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), with improved validation parameters for AEOs by adopting a tailor-made approach, as well as to bolster its AEO programme.

In terms of the way forward, some of the key recommendations included: (i) the improvement of the SAQ, (ii) the expansion of the AEO programme to include various economic operators, such as transporters, freight forwarders and e-commerce actors, (iii) the ongoing enhancement of economic operator-specific customized validation capacities, and (iv) the extension of collaboration initiatives by setting up Customs-to-Private Sector collaborative forums underpinned by best practices, including outreach and education programmes.