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East and Southern Africa Region Governing Council Meeting in Botswana

24 mayo 2019

At the invitation of Mr. Dicksons Kateshumbwa, Vice-Chair for the WCO East and Southern Africa Region and Commissioner of Customs, Uganda Revenue Authority, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the 24th East and Southern Africa (ESA) Region Governing Council Meeting, held in Gaborone, Botswana on 23 and 24 May 2019.

The Meeting was addressed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Botswana, Mr. Ontefetse Kenneth Matambo, who emphasized the important role played by Customs in economic development and integration, as well as in supporting the accomplishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  He confirmed Botswana’s commitment to strengthen cooperation with international partners and acknowledged the WCO’s leading role in enhancing international trade by developing Customs standards and supporting Members’ compliance and enforcement efforts. 

When welcoming delegates, Mr. Valshia Phodiso, Acting Commissioner General, Botswana Unified Revenue Service, underscored the achievements of and challenges faced by Botswana Customs.  He expressed his appreciation for the strong support received from the WCO through the many initiatives taken up, and particularly for the capacity building support.

The Vice-Chair for the Region, Mr. Kateshumbwa, extended a warm welcome to delegates.  In his report he referred to the outcomes of the December Policy Commission and the progress to date with the implementation of the Regional Strategy.  He highlighted the need for concerted efforts to successfully implement the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, recognizing the important support of the private sector and development partners.

Secretary General Mikuriya updated delegates on recent developments and highlighted the critical role played by technology in streamlining Customs procedures and enhancing regional integration.  In this sense, he outlined the key areas of work covered under the WCO theme for 2019 : “SMART borders for seamless Trade, Travel and Transport”.

He presented the WCO’s key priorities captured in the new Strategic Plan, highlighting, among other things:

  • automation, data analytics, and the use of technology;
  • existing initiatives in the security realm and the role of Customs in the protection of society;
  • ongoing efforts to counter illicit financial flows and assure government revenues, including the development of the Customs-FIU Cooperation Handbook;  
  • performance measurement, including the work being carried out to ensure that the World Bank takes into account Customs' input when preparing the “Doing Business" report;
  • the WCO Framework of Standards on cross-border e-commerce;
  • the strategic review of key WCO instruments, such as the Harmonized System and the Revised Kyoto Convention; and
  • the importance of efficient and speedy procedure for relief goods in response to natural disasters.

Delegates went on to discuss the following issues: (i) the Regional Strategy; (ii) Customs reforms and modernization; (iii) Efficient cross-border management during the response to disasters; and (iv) the African Continental Free Trade Area and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.  In addition, delegates received and discussed reports on the outcomes of the Audit and Finance Committees, as well as on the activities of the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) and Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO).

Secretary General Mikuriya joined with delegates to thank the Botswana authorities for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to participants, as well as for the excellent organization of the meeting.