The Steering Committee of the European Union (EU)-World Customs Organisation (WCO) Programme for the Harmonised System (HS) in Africa held its first meeting on 02 May at the WCO in Brussels. Representatives of the EU, the WCO, the African Union (AU) as well as selected Regional Economic Communities and Customs administrations from Africa gathered to discuss and validate the overall strategy of the Programme and its approach to planning aspects of the Programme implementation.
The meeting was held in the margin of the WCO Conference on the future of the HS to allow the Steering Committee members to engage in discussions on strategic dimensions of the HS and have a better understanding of the key role that it plays in regional and continental integration, its value as a trade facilitation instrument and its prominence in the work of the WCO and its Members.
In his opening address, the WCO’s Director of Tariff-and Trade Affairs expressed his confidence that the Programme has the adequate capacity and resources to reach its objectives, even if a great deal of work lies ahead so that beneficiaries can catch up with the rhythm of the HS amendments.
The WCO’s Deputy Director of Capacity Building, who chaired the meeting of the Committee, welcomed the progress made in the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) stressing the fact that the HS would be indispensable for the AfCFTA to become fully functional. She pointed out that the Programme was a major step to support the implementation of the HS on the African continent emphasising the importance of ensuring synergies with other initiatives undertaken by the WCO’s Capacity Building Directorate for targeted and efficient technical assistance.
The Steering Committee examined and discussed the Programme governance structure, the key objectives to be achieved, the strategic vision of the implementation phases and the overall planning process. The Committee approved the proposed way forward, and encouraged more African Regional Economic Communities and Customs administrations to join the Programme as beneficiaries.
Story by: Riaan de Lange