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Western & Central African regions roar ahead on digital customs and e-commerce mgmt

The WCO with support from the Japanese Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF/Japan) and Burkina Faso Customs Administration organized a Regional Workshop on Digital Customs and E-Commerce from 21 to 24 August 2017 at the Regional Training Centre in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

As many as 36 representatives from 20 Customs administrations of the Region (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Congo (Democratic Republic), Congo (Republic of), Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo), Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) of Western Africa (Senegal) and Central Africa (Cameron), African Alliance for E-Commerce (AAEC), Express Industry and IT providers participated in the Workshop.

Inaugurating the Workshop, Mr. Adama SAWADOGO, Director General, Burkina Faso said that information and communication technology (ICT) is becoming omnipresent, impacting every walk of life including the international supply chain and regulatory processes. He underscored the need of finding innovative solutions through the maximum use of ICT to address new and emerging challenges in terms of facilitating seamless movement of goods, people, and conveyances across borders, while strengthening risk management and control.

Noting some of the challenges and opportunities presented by growing E-Commerce, the Director General called for exploring ways and enhancing related capabilities to capture all commercial activities on the Internet. Thanking the WCO, he encouraged participants to share knowledge and enhance regional capacity on these issues.

The Experts from the WCO provided detailed information and explanations on Digital Customs and its various facets, in particular the implementation/consolidation of electronic services, Single Window and harmonization of data and messaging standards in accordance with the WCO Data Model. The Experts also made detailed presentations on cross-border E-Commerce, including the related opportunities and challenges together with potential solutions. All the relevant WCO tools and instruments, country examples, case studies and the WCO’s ongoing and envisaged work in these areas were explained and their use in national and regional context was discussed in great detail.

Representatives from Mali, Cameroon, Senegal, and Nigeria shared their respective national experiences and initiatives on ICT implementation, IT project management, use of WCO Data Model, and E-Commerce. In addition, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire provided a detailed account of work being done by the ‘Regional Working Group on Digital Customs’ (a group of 23 countries), and the representative of African Alliance for E-Commerce (AAEC) presented their work in the area of Single Window implementation (including ongoing pilots on the exchange of e-certificate of origin) and E-Commerce.

Throughout the Workshop, the participants raised several questions and shared practical experiences/best practices relating to the implementation various ICT solutions and E-Commerce as well as national experiences and initiatives concerning effective risk management and efficient revenue collection on increasing low-value shipments. Additionally, the accession/ratification and the harmonized implementation of the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC), the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines, and the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) were discussed in the context of consolidating ICT implementation and supporting E-Commerce flows.

There was a clear emphasis towards moving to a paperless Single Window environment and eventually having an interconnectivity/interoperability of Customs IT systems/Single Windows for an efficient exchange of information (e.g., e-certificate of origin and e-phytosanitary certificate). The capture and use of new data sources from all economic operators in the E-Commerce supply chain for integrated risk management as a whole government approach was equally explored as a potential way forward.

A representative from the Express Industry (DHL) shared their perspective, in particular how they were adapting to the growing E-Commerce environment. Several opportunities in terms of leveraging respective control and compliance mechanisms of express service providers and postal operators in improving compliance and strengthening risk management together with related working experiences were discussed.

Being the first of its kind in the Region, the Workshop was very well received by participants and raised a lot of interest and robust discussions. Participants acquired an enhanced understanding of issues relating to Digital Customs and cross-border E-Commerce as well as relevant WCO instruments and tools in terms of their effective and harmonized implementation at the national/regional level. Furthermore, they learned how the different WCO instruments and tools could support the facilitation of low-value shipments whilst ensuring effective revenue collection and supply chain security.

The workshop also enabled the participants in developing a broad strategy going forward, which inter alia included adoption of a risk-based approach based on advance electronic data (from E-commerce stakeholders such as Posts, express service providers, e-platforms/marketplaces); the implementation/enhancement of ICT in close coordination with other government agencies and private sector stakeholders leading to a paperless single window environment;  and the development of IT and data analytics capabilities including internet monitoring.

Additionally, the Workshop provided participants with a good opportunity to establish networks with other Customs administration of the Region through an enhanced understanding of issues of mutual interest at the regional level. The WCO will continue to provide all necessary support and technical assistance, based on national and regional needs in the future.

 


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