African Heads of Customs Laboratories explore best practices from Regional Customs Laboratories of WCO Asia Pacific Region

26 April 2023

The World Customs Organization (WCO), in partnership with the WCO Asia Pacific ROCB and the Japan Regional Customs Laboratory, organized a study visit for Heads of African Customs laboratories from 18 to 20 April 2023, in Kashiwa, Japan. The Study visit was conducted under the EU-WCO HS Africa Programme, funded by the European Union, at the margins of the second regional meeting of the Heads of the WCO Regional Customs Laboratories of the Asia Pacific Region.

Delegates from Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, as well as Sudan with virtual presence, had the opportunity to attend the proceedings of the meeting and engage in rich exchanges with representatives of Regional Customs Laboratories from India, Japan and South Korea in person, and with China and Indonesia virtually.

The Asia Pacific region counts a high number of Regional Customs Laboratories (RCLs), and a great level of coordination, cooperation and capacity building activities. In line with the HS Africa support to provide guidance and best practice examples for setting up relevant regional and national Customs laboratory policies and facilities, it was of great relevance that Heads of Customs laboratories from Africa attend this meeting to exchange with peers and learn from best practices.

The study visit was a huge opportunity for African partners to learn more about the functioning of RCLs, their work organization methods, infrastructure and technology. The presentations of the Five Regional Customs Laboratories, RILO, WCO Regional Development Manager, ROCB and the Vice-Chair from the Asia Pacific region, gave a comprehensive picture on the ongoing work, the latest developments, the challenges, the capacity building actions and cooperation opportunities in the work and management of regional customs laboratories.

As part of the programme, Japan Customs organized study tours to the RCL in Kashiwa and to the Tokyo Customs laboratory. Experts explored the premises of the laboratories and were introduced to the methods and equipment used to analyse various categories of merchandise, along with the sampling techniques, safety requirements, analysis purposes, laboratory standards, and procedural aspects of laboratory work.

This study visit also intervened in complementarity with the WCO Regional Customs Professional Programme funded by Japan and Korea Customs which is benefiting African administrations as well. Two countries benefiting from the last edition of the programme (Sudan and Uganda) had the chance to further build up on the acquired knowledge and expertise.

The study visit was highly appreciated by the African experts, who reiterated their administration’s sustained commitment to further enhance Customs laboratory work in their countries based on the information received during the visit, and engage together to move towards setting up RCLs in Africa. The experts stressed that the visit had been highly useful in gaining a better understanding the complexity, challenges and benefits inherent in the implementation of a RCL, and in inspiring their administration to follow all of the modern standards in Customs laboratory work. They look forward to further engagement at national level with dedicated capacity building, and for more exchange opportunities with other countries and regions.

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