Building capacity to help Africa trade better

First WCO Global AEO Conference in Africa opens in Uganda


First WCO Global AEO Conference in Africa opens in Uganda

First WCO Global AEO Conference in Africa opens in Uganda
Photo credit: Tourism Uganda

The 4th WCO Global AEO Conference opened on the 14 March 2018 in Kampala, Uganda with more than 1500 registrations from over 95 countries to discuss dynamic developments in Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programmes widely acknowledged as a key driver for solid Customs-Business partnerships.

The first AEO programme within the African continent was materialized in the East African Community (EAC) region, leading to the signature, during this Conference, of a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) – Action Plan between Korea Customs Service (KCS) and the EAC Members. The delegates of this Conference also witnessed the signature of another important MRA between Peru and Uruguay Customs represented by the Directors General of Customs.

The Conference was opened by H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda, with an inspiring message on the importance of regional collaboration among East African Countries and the need for a coordinated approach for broadening the scope of investment in Africa. He congratulated the WCO for providing a platform for discussing the topical issues of interests to the international community and highlighted the need for renewed trust and commitment for cooperation among African Countries.

In his welcome address, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, underscored that this AEO Conference is the first of its kind in the African continent, more precisely in the pearl of Africa, Uganda. He echoed the President’s appreciation of the commitment of the EAC towards enhancing trade facilitation in the region.

Secretary General Mikuriya added that the African continent is actually booming with new developments in the field of security and facilitation of the supply chain. He stated that the theme of the Conference, “Promoting Mutual Recognition of AEOs to Strengthen and Secure Global Trade”, is very much in line with the increasing number of AEO programmes being implemented, including the number of Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) signed globally.

Dr. Mikuriya also commended the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), through its Commissioner General and Commissioner of Customs, for the strong dedication of the URA and the relentless efforts of their team in the organization of this successful event.

President Museveni opens international customs conference

President Yoweri Museveni has said that the African continent can no longer be a spectator in the global industrial and technological revolutions.

According to him, Africa has since solved many of the bottlenecks that dragged it back as the rest of the world industrialized, and that it is now ready to be an equal player in global trade.

The President made the remarks earlier on Wednesday as he opened the 4th World Customs Organization (WCO) AEO Global Conference at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

The three-day conference, the first to be held in Africa, will discuss the role of AEOs in facilitating global trade and security as prerequisites for economic development.

A brainchild of the WCO, AEO offers complaint institutions preferential treatment like fast clearance at borders or ports. Mutual recognition agreements under AEO, among others, are high on the meeting’s agenda.

Although Africa is bigger in size than most of the developed economies combined, Museveni noted, it had for long been sidelined in the global economy due to challenges like slave trade, poor leadership and disunity among different countries.

However, he stressed, Africa has now woken up and is ready to catch up. “Most of the problems we suffered were partly because of our internal weaknesses. We are trying to solve the issue of unity through regional integration,” Museveni told participants in a speech peppered with jokes that cracked participants.

He argued that the rising population in Africa is a silver lining, adding that the continent ought to position itself as the “next frontier for industrialization”.

“Under population has also been our problem, but we are sorting it out, especially with the discovery of modern medicines to counter killer diseases. By 2050, Africa will have over 2.5 billion people. We shall have caught up with other big economies,” he said.

“We are going into the industrial age and digital revolution, and this time we shall be part of global trade on equal terms with the rest.”

Over 1,000 delegates from over 169 countries across the globe including customs administrators, companies, government officials, academia and policymakers attended the biannual event. Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), which championed the AEO programme in Uganda, hosted the conference.

WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, who addressed journalists earlier, noted that Africa possesses a huge economic growth potential.

“Customs authorities and businesses should work jointly to improve the economic competitiveness of the respective countries, regional blocs and Africa,” Mikuriya said.

The conference, he added, was an opportunity for participants to listen to and replicate success stories regarding AEO, customs administration, trade facilitation and other best practices.

URA Commissioner General, Doris Akol said that the conference was a key platform for all players in international trade to share best practices.

Alongside the conference, she disclosed, there would be an exhibition at which initiatives like the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System, Single Customs Territory, Electronic Single Window would be showcased. The initiatives are meant to facilitate trade.

Uganda has a total of 51 companies registered as AEOs and these account for 28% of all the tax revenue generated. Of these, 30 are importers and exporters while 21 are clearing agents.

Commissioner Customs, Dicksons Kateshumbwa hailed WCO for choosing Uganda following a pitch to host the conference. Uganda, he pointed out, was committed to facilitating trade locally and regionally and to creating a “safe environment for business”.


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