The WCO and WHO join forces to build the capacity of Customs administrations in Africa to combat substandard and falsified medical products

13 February 2023

From 7 to 10 February 2023, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly held two online workshops (one in English and the other in French) for the WCO’s West and Central Africa (WCA) region on combatting the trafficking of substandard and falsified medical products. This initiative was also supported by the Council of Europe with the participation of the Executive Secretariat of the Medicrime Convention.

These workshops were organized in response to the proliferation of substandard and falsified medical products and cases of lethal paediatric products recently reported by the WHO Global Surveillance and Monitoring System.

Some 36 Customs officers specialized in enforcement and risk management took part in the workshops, representing 12 countries in the WCA region: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal.

During these sessions, participants had the opportunity to improve their knowledge of pharmaceutical crime and become familiar with related tools and instruments provided by the WCO to its Members, such as the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) CENcomm platform, e-commerce risk indicators and the online CLiKC! module specifically dedicated to “combatting illicit medicines and counterfeit or substandard medical supplies related to COVID-19 and other pandemics”.

In his opening address, Mr. Boubacar Camara, Deputy Director General of Benin Customs, welcomed the WCO Secretariat’s initiative and recalled the key role Customs play in protecting borders and consumer health against falsified and/or substandard medical products. He went on to emphasize that “Benin Customs is ready to play a leading role in the WCO’s WCA region to dismantle illicit medicine trafficking networks”.

The representative of the WCO Secretariat highlighted the need to develop capacity building activities for Customs administrations in the region so that they might be better able to protect society against illicit trafficking, particularly as such activities are among the priorities identified in the WCO Strategic Plan 2022-2025 and in the WCO IPR Strategy 2020 approved by the 41st Meeting of the Enforcement Committee.

During the workshop, five rights holders representing pharmaceutical companies presented techniques and best practices for detecting falsified or substandard pharmaceutical products from the perspective of the private sector.

The WCO, through its IPR, Health and Safety Programme, will continue to raise awareness in this area and build the capacity of Customs administrations to combat the trafficking of substandard and falsified medical products.