Regional workshop empowers East and Southern Africa to secure and facilitate cross-border e-commerce

05 June 2024

From 28 to 30 May 2024 the World Customs Organization (WCO) delivered a Regional Workshop on e-commerce for East and Southern Africa (ESA) at the Integrated Customs Clearance Centre in Plaine Magnien, Mauritius. The objectives of the event were to raise awareness of the WCO tools and initiatives aimed at facilitating and securing cross-border e-commerce and to provide a forum for the sharing of information on challenges and good practices, thus promoting regional cooperation.

The Workshop was organized with the financial support of the Customs Cooperation Fund of China (CCF China) and benefitted from the participation of 22 Customs officials from 18 Members of the ESA region. The workshop opening ceremony featured remarks by the Acting Director General and the Director of Customs at the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA), the WCO Secretariat and the Guest of Honour for this session, H.E. Liying ZHU, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Republic of Mauritius. They all underscored the key role of e-commerce in providing new growth engines, especially for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and the need for Customs to facilitate this new mode of trade, while protecting the society from various threats and safeguarding revenue.

Throughout the event, the Workshop facilitators provided detailed explanations of the 16 standards of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce (E-Commerce FoS) and the tools available to support their implementation, namely the tools forming part of the E-Commerce Package and the Immediate Release Guidelines. Particular focus was placed on the submission of advance electronic data and risk management, along with efficient revenue collection in the e-commerce environment and the challenges faced by Members in that regard, notably those related to Customs valuation.

Ten of the participating Members delivered presentations focusing on the legislative and procedural aspects of handling e-commerce shipments at the national level. Presentations were provided also by the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for the ESA region (RILO ESA), the Universal Postal Union, and DHL. These presentations prompted lively discussions and valuable exchanges of information on challenges, possible solutions, and good practices and underscored the importance of partnerships in the context of the growing cross-border e-commerce.

Given the initial stage of implementation of the E-Commerce FoS in the ESA region, we now have a clear idea of what the Customs administrations in the region need to do in order to support the growth of e-commerce in a safe and sustainable manner, said one of the participants during the workshop wrap-up. Based on the case studies, examples of practical implementation, and good practices shared during the Workshop, we will aspire to fully implement the E-Commerce FoS in a phased manner, other participants added. 

During his closing remarks, the Principal of MRA’s Human Resources and Training Department encouraged the participants to continue benefitting from the networking and collaboration opportunities that were initiated with the delivery of this important Workshop.

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