On 06 December, at the invitation of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the AfricaPLC platform, the WCO Secretary General spoke at the 2nd Africa investor Africa PLC-ICC Global eTrade Leaders’ Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), held virtually. It coincided with the 13th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government of 55 African countries held on 05 December in preparation for implementation of the AfCFTA on 01 January 2021.
The AfCFTA Secretary General explained that African Heads of State had underlined the need to put women, young people and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the heart of AfCFTA implementation and had decided to fast-track E-Commerce and Digital Trade issues. He also stressed the importance of Customs in this endeavour and expressed his appreciation for the positive views of WCO Member administrations at the first AfCFTA Customs Directors General Meeting held last month, as well as his hope of seeing a digital platform implemented across Africa.
The WCO Secretary General echoed the AfCFTA's statement about inclusiveness in trade. This would be mirrored at the upcoming WCO Council Session, where Heads of Customs would discuss gender equality and diversity in Customs. He also welcomed the AfCFTA priorities, given that the WCO had the relevant tools and expertise in these domains, including the Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce, initiatives on digitisation of Customs documents, and the WCO Data Model to ensure interoperability. The WCO’s tools also address issues raised in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the needs of SMEs. The WCO’s Secretary General reaffirmed the WCO’s readiness to provide capacity building support, subject to funding, to African Customs administrations in the interests of African integration.
The ICC Secretary General also affirmed his willingness to support the AfCFTA from a private sector perspective, while underscoring the importance of a partnership approach with the WCO and other stakeholders.
Story by: Riaan de Lange