EU-WCO Harmonised System Launch in Africa


The Continental Inaugural Conference of the EU-WCO Programme for the Harmonized System (HS) in Africa was held on 27 to 28 February at the headquarters of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The Conference marked the launch of an unprecedented capacity building endeavour, funded by the European Union and implemented by the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

This Programme, which complements other EU and WCO contributions to the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), aims to provide African countries and other stakeholders involved in the HS implementation process with the required organizational capacities and resources to apply future HS versions in a timely and coordinated manner throughout the entire continent.

The conference was attended by over 70 representatives from 38 African member administrations, the African Union Commission (AUC) and African Regional Economic Communities (RECs), as well as representatives of international organisations and the private sector.  The conference was a unique opportunity for stakeholders contributing to the implementation and application of the HS to exchange views on ways to streamline the migration to the next version of the HS entering into force on 01 January 2022.

In their opening remarks, senior representatives of the EU, the AUC and the WCO welcomed this collaboration reiterating the importance of this initiative and the benefits it had for regional integration as well as other socio-economic benefits resulting from increased trade flows such as job creation and poverty reduction.

The Head of EU Delegation to the AU stressed the potential that this programme had in reinforcing African integration and moving towards efficient implementation of the AfCFTA, which is one of the main axes of the EU-Africa partnership.

Both the EU and the AUC emphasized the role that the WCO played in trade facilitation in Africa, restating their confidence in the unique experience and expertise of the WCO to implement this programme at the highest standards.

To date, 49 of the 54 African countries have ratified the HS Convention but only 29 apply the HS 2017.

The outcomes of the different discussions held at the conference confirmed the importance of timely and coordinated application of the HS versions, outlining the relevance and the strategic timing of the programme. Over 30 member administrations and eight Regional Economic Communities have expressed interest in the programme. The programme management team will, in the next phase, conduct diagnostic missions for selected countries and RECs, and prepare country/region profiles that will feed into the development of work-plans and targeted actions.

Story by: Riaan de Lange


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