Launch of the EU-WCO Programme for Harmonized System in Africa

11 marzo 2019

The Continental Inaugural Conference of the EU-WCO Programme for the Harmonized System (HS) in Africa was held on 27-28 February 2019 at the headquarters of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The Conference marked the launch of an unprecedented capacity building endeavour, funded by the European Union and implemented by the World Customs Organization (WCO). This Programme, which complements other EU and WCO contributions to the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area, aims at providing African countries and other stakeholders involved in the HS implementation process with the required organizational capacities and resources to apply future HS versions in a timely and coordinated manner throughout the entire continent.

The conference was attended by over 70 representatives from 38 African member administrations, the African Union Commission (AUC) and African Regional Economic Communities (RECs), as well as representatives of international organizations and the private sector.  The conference was a unique opportunity for stakeholders contributing to the implementation and application of the HS to exchange views on ways to streamline the migration to the next version of the HS entering into force on 1 January 2022.

In their opening remarks, senior representatives of the EU, the AUC and the WCO welcomed this collaboration reiterating the importance of this initiative and the benefits it has for regional integration as well as other socio-economic benefits resulting from increased trade flows such as job creation and poverty reduction. Mrs. Anna Burylo, Deputy Head of EU Delegation to the AU, stressed the potential that this programme has in reinforcing African integration and moving towards efficient implementation of the AfCFTA, which is one of the main axes of the EU-Africa partnership. Mrs. Treasure Maphanga, Director of Trade and Industry at the AUC, corroborated the timeliness of the conference held before the eve of the entering-into-force of the AfCFTA, the momentousness of the programme for African countries and their citizens as well as the impact it will have in increasing intra-African trade and Africa’s trade with the rest of world. Both the EU and the AUC emphasized the role that the WCO plays in trade facilitation in Africa, restating their confidence in the unique experience and expertise of the WCO to implement this programme at the highest standards. Mr. Ping Liu, Director of Tariff and Trade Affairs Directorate at the WCO Secretariat, welcomed the engagement of more than 66% of African countries and of many RECs to the Programme and encouraged more to join. He stressed that “the reality check is that we’ve got a lot of work to do. To date, 49 of the 54 African countries have ratified the HS Convention but only 29 apply the HS 2017”. He is confident that the programme “would support not only individual African countries but also regional integration through the RECs and the AfCFTA towards building an African market connecting trade within the continent and beyond”.

The outcomes of the different discussions held at the conference confirmed the importance of timely and coordinated application of the HS versions, outlining the relevance and the strategic timing of the Programme. Over 30 Member administrations and eight Regional Economic Communities have expressed interest in the Programme. The Programme management team will, in the next phase, conduct diagnostic missions for selected countries and RECs, and prepare country/region profiles that will feed into the development of work-plans and targeted actions.

For more information on the Programme please contact the Programme management team at: wcoHSAfrica@wcoomd.org.