African Union customs experts meet prior to the 9th AU Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs meeting
The Department of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission (AUC) is organizing the 9th African Union Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs Meeting at Expert level from 13-17 November 2017.
The objective of the Meeting is to take stock of the work carried out by the various Technical Working Groups (TWGs) for the period under review, endorse the recommendations of the Experts and reflect further on the Meeting theme: “The contribution of customs to the analysis of International Trade Data, for security and the Boosting of Intra-African Trade”.
The Meeting is being attended by Experts from AU Member States, Customs Experts from the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Customs Organization (WCO).
While welcoming participants, Mr. Adrian Peter Swarres, Ag. Commissioner Customs for Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZRA) thanked the Director General of Cameroon Customs for the warm welcome and great hospitality that participants have received since arriving in Cameroon.
Mr. Swarres pointed out that the theme of the meeting very aptly, provides the Meeting with a platform to exchange views and discuss the role that African Customs Administrations play in contributing to the analysis of International Trade Data, as way of enhancing Security and Boosting Intra-African Trade.
According to the Ag. Commissioner, effective border management can only be achieved through by increasing cooperation between various border agencies and all key stakeholders in the supply chain, the simplification and harmonization of border procedures and by leveraging on technological advancement.
Before he concluded, he urged the Meeting to continue to promote the faster movement of goods and people across African borders thereby reducing the cross border transactional costs, promoting Intra-African Trade.
“The benefits of enhanced trade facilitation can never be over emphasized especially as we progress towards a Continental Free Trade Area,” he concluded.
In his opening remarks on behalf of Mrs Treasure Thembisile Maphanga, Director for Trade and Industry, Mr. Nadir Merah, Head of the Trade Division of the African Union Commission, thanked the Government and the people of Cameroon for their hospitality.
He reminded the Meeting that the 18th African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government endorsed an Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT). The objective of the BIAT, he said, is to enhance the level of Intra-African Trade from the current levels to approximately 23% or more by 2022.
“Whilst we will be able through the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) to gradually eliminate tariff barriers hindering Intra-African Trade, we must also tackle non-tariff barriers with a view to reduce the high trade costs that African private sector continue to experience,” he mentioned.
Mr. Nadir underscored the fact that there is a dire need to address the issues of corruption and integrity and improvement of data handling in particular in the context of digitalization which has resulted in an explosion of available data.
“One of the questions is how, and to what extend Customs Administrations can help diversify the types and sources data with a view to create a data-rich repository. The project of establishing an African Union Trade Observatory constitutes one of the plausible solutions and Customs Administrations should contribute to the realization of this project,” he said.
According to the Head of Trade Division, the role of the Customs during the negotiations and implementation of the CFTA needs to be highly underlined.
“While negotiations are ongoing on the various issues, it is critical to note that the potential gains that form the establishment of the CFTA will only be harnessed if there is a simplified and standardized customs procedures and processes and more importantly modernized Customs Administrations,” he emphasized.
Mr. Nadir Merah concluded by commending Experts of the Customs Administration, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the different partners and organizations for the good collaboration throughout the year.
In his opening speech, the Director for Legislation and Litigation, Mr. Gasper Konneh on behalf of the Director General of Cameroon Customs thanked the African Union Commission and Customs Administrations for the trust placed in his country to serve as host for the Meeting.
He pointed out that the Meeting provides an opportunity for Experts to identify and solve problems that could hinder the implementation of the African Economic Community, through the progressive processes by which the Regional Economic Communities will form free trade areas, then merge to a Continental Customs Union.
“The future is therefore within our reach. We need to strengthen trade between African countries, creating a larger and more secure market. This would involve improving policies conducive to the free movement of people and goods, such as streamlining border processes,” he stated.
He urged the Meeting to formulate strong proposals and recommendations to the 9th AU Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs in order to move forward the Contribution of customs to the analysis of International Trade data, for Security and the Boosting of Intra-African Trade.
The 9th AU Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs meeting will follow the Expert Meeting from 16-17 November 2017 in Yaoundé, Cameroon.