Regional Workshop on Disruptive Technology for the ESA and WCA Regions

24 January 2022

The WCO East and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa (WCA) Regional Experience-Sharing Workshop on Disruptive Technologies was held from 17 to 19 January 2022. The workshop was organized with the financial support of the Korea Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF Korea). It was the fourth of a series of regional workshops on disruptive technologies that started in March 2021. The objective is to respond to a growing need from WCO Members to learn about these technologies and how they can be mobilized in Customs and the broader border management environment.

The Workshop, which brought together 75 participants from 25 Members from the two regions, as well as regional economic communities, was officially opened by Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the World customs Organization. In his address, he encouraged participants to actively participate as their inputs will ultimately feed into the update of the WCO Study Report on Disruptive Technologies, which is expected to be finalized by June this year.  Dr. Mikuriya also highlighted the WCO theme for 2022, dedicated to “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem,” indicating its relevance to the Workshop, which was focused on data.  

In his capacity as Vice-Chair of the ESA region, Mr. Adrian Swarres, Ag. Commissioner for Zimbabwe Customs, that the WCO work on disruptive technologies will provide to the region a better understanding about the disruptive technologies and how they can be beneficial to Customs administrations. The Vice-Chair of the WCA region and Director General of Customs and Indirect Duties of Republic of Congo, Mr. Guénolé Mbongo Koumou, highlighted the challenges linked to the introduction of these technologies within the region, in particular the lack of expertise and best practices. He thanked the WCO Secretariat for organizing the workshop, which allowed the sharing of experiences to familiarize Customs personnel with the various tools.

The first day of the workshop was dedicated to the general introduction to Disruptive Technologies. This gave rise to an opportunity for participants to familiarize themselves on the Study Report on Disruptive Technologies. Participants learnt from Members’ innovations projects for digital transformation and their practices on public-private sector partnership. Insightful presentations were shared on experiences, challenges and benefits of using these technologies.

The second day focused entirely on Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and blockchain. With presentations from Members from the ESA/WCA regions, the private sector, academia and Members from the Americas region, participants were able to gain an understanding of pilot projects using blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

The last day of the workshop was centered around the last of the three technologies that have already shown potential for the future use of Customs and border management - the Internet of Things. Exceedingly insightful presentations around the use of this technology were shared by Members in the two regions, academia and the private sector, focusing mainly on business continuity, cyber security and cargo tracking.  Emphasis was placed on the importance of international standards, addressing largely on the relevance of the WCO Data Model and the latest developments in the field, as well as other international standards of importance to the cross-border movement of goods.

The workshop was concluded in an open discussion session on recommendations on the use of disruptive technologies in the Customs and border environment, giving Members the opportunity to share their suggestions, experiences and challenges encountered in using these technologies and also to gather their input for the update of the WCO Study Report on Disruptive Technologies.