Tuesday, June 6

WCO committed to support regional customs in tackling illegal trade at borders –

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Dr. KunioMikuriya, Secretary General for World Customs Organisation (WCO) has said his organisation will continue its support to regional customs, especially in the areas of combating illegal trade at the borders.  

“We need to address the issue of facilitating trade and also protecting the society. We will continue our support to customs at the borders to ensure citizens are protected from intrudes and outtrude hazardous goods, fake medicines and other related drugs,’’ he said .

Dr. Mikuriya made this statement on 5th May 2023, during the close meeting of the 29th International Conference of Directors-General of the WCO-West and Central Africa (WCA) hosted in Banjul by the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) with the theme: “Nurturing the next generation by promoting a culture of knowledge sharing and professional pride customs.’’

The auspicious occasion which was graced and opened by Gambian president brought together delegates from The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, Congo, Togo, Liberia and other West and Central countries.

According to Dr. Mikuriya, WCO-WCA observed that some part of the borders are becoming fragile in the sense that there armed group who are very violent, especially organised crime. Without stability at the borders, he added customs cannot facilitate legitimate trade and neither collects revenue as well.

He said border security has become crucial, stating that customs’ role is special since they are not military, none police. For customs, he explained looks at border lines, which he added the border’s economy is really supported by small trades but at the same, he said it will make sure that they don’t go illicit trade such as drugs, fire arms and other trade that post direct threat on citizens.

At the WCO’s level, Dr. Mikuriya noted that they also want to make sure that the border lines strive, whereas prosperity should be assured and but also stability should be there.  He urged customs to work hand in hand with other law enforcement agencies and other agencies in strengthening the border security.

He said WCO provides leadership, guidance and support to customs administrations to secure and facilitate legitimate trade, realize revenues, protect society and build capacity. He said this will ensure a fair and competitive trade environment; saying will create a level playing field for African businesses.

He sees the conference meeting as a very important one to WCO because 24 members of the West and Central Africa gathered in Banjul to discuss important policy matters and share best of practices. Because we need a very friendly environment and the atmosphere is good. We feel a great hospitality from the GRA and its people.

Dr. Mikuriya commended President Barrow for showing commitment in supporting Customs Organisations and its Reform Agenda.  He expressed how heads of Customs for over 24 countries were very much impressed that has facilitated the discussion to have more corporation and collaboration among their members. He expressed how delighted he was to see that President Barrow takes GRA seriously by supporting the authority for the sake of the country.

He further sees Gambia as an entering point for the African continent, which he added now continent has started its wider free trade areas. He said WCO will continue its support to Gambia in terms of the use of advance technology and how to implement global standard to make sure Gambia’s economy is well connected, most particularly the human resources.

“I was impressed by the quality of Gambian people. Which I take Yankuba Darboe GRA CG as an example, who is a product of WCO,’’ he stated.

In 2010, WCO’s SG explained how he invited CG Darboe at the WCO in Brussels and he sent him to Japan as well to get leadership and management skills, which he added Darboe responded to WCO’s expectation. He further talked how WCO was also impressed by Alhajie Saihou Denton, GRA’s Finance Director, who at the same-time was managing WCO’s finance as well as heading the chair of finance committee.

But his focus now, according to him, would be next generation and WCO is committed to investing in people, especially the young people. He said more scholarships and opportunities will provided to Gambians in the customs to come to WCO’s Brussels in order to learn more.

“Also, International Corporation is very important because what Gambia imports must of the goods go to other countries. On how to enhance cooperation between administrations in the region was the major topic during the meetings. And we did good progress, especially on issue of understanding each other’s needs and challenges and how best they can be enhanced through cooperation by getting more human networks,’’ said Dr. Mikuriya.

He said the delegates also chatted out as what would be the strategic plans for the region, which he added they have agreed and they will now be looking forward for further development in Gambia and other countries.

Yankuba Darboe, Commissioner General for GRA highlighted some of the key main areas the delegates discussed during the 29th international conference meeting. Among them, he stated digitization, which he says all the member countries believed that digitization needs to be prioritized for their systems. With digitization, he added that they will be able to create more efficiency in terms of revenue collection.

“Digitization is the key to drive the institutions to more efficient. Like in the Gambia, we have the ASYCUDA World, which is automatic web based. This is now drive our revenue collection and recently we witnessed the updating of the Single Window system, which is going to give us addition stronger in terms of international trade,’’ he explained.

According to Darboe, capacity building for regional customs staff was also part key areas. He said this was prioritized that the WCO and the regional body (WCA) should help each other particularly the member countries to build the capacity of their staff.

“If you want to collect high revenue; you must train your staff, so they can understand what they are doing. That is why we said in this year’s theme knowledge sharing to the younger generation because we know that by nature, we are growing older, therefore, we need to build the capacity of the young ones or share our knowledges with them in order to prepared them better so that when we leave, they can take over from us,’’ he narrated.

Darboe said the challenges customs faced at the borders was another discussed, saying must of Africa’s borders are porous. He said the issue of the borders was discussed thoroughly within the member countries.  He added other issues such as governance structures were highly discussed too.

“This areas were touched very well – particularly countries that are border to each other to help one another in terms of border control and management,’’ he said.

During conference meetings, Darboe said elections were made as which country was going to take new position of vice chair of WCO-WCA. He said Nigeria was lucky to be re-elected again in that position. He added Gambia also elected again in the position of Finance-audit committee for WCO-WCA.

Darboe revealed the next intentional conference meeting of Directors General of WCO-WCA will be hosted by Mali in 2024, while the 2025 conference will also be hosted by Congo.