Minutes of meeting: 6th WEBINAR – 21 MAY, 15H00 TO 16H30 (CAT; UCT +02:00)

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Introduction

The challenges that countries in the East and Southern Africa region faced prior to the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic continue to alter the manner in which cross-border business takes place in the region. This WCO ESA RPSG webinar — the 6th of its kind — deliberated on some of the most pertinent customs and trade related matters with specific focus on how the pandemic has influenced the situation.

The webinar was chaired by Juanita Maree, (WCO ESA-RPSG and SAAFF Director). She was joined by four leading customs panellists:

  • Larry Liza – Director – World Customs Organization: East & Southern Africa, Regional Office for Capacity Building
  • Patrick Gyan – Regional Development Manager, East and Southern Africa Region
  • Fermin Cuza – International President – World Business Alliance for Secure Commerce Organization.  (member of WCO-PSCG) 
  • Kazem Asayesh – Senior Advisor – TIR and Transit Services, World Road Transport Organisation (member of WCO-PSCG)

Outline of the agenda:

  1. Welcome
    1. Rules of Engagement
    1. Panellist discussions:
      1. Larry Liza & Patrick Gyan: Lessons learned from COVID-19
      1. Fermin Cuza: AEO
      1. Kazem Asayesh: Cross-border road freight and in transit cargo movements
    1. Q & A
    1. Closure

1. Welcome

A warm note of welcome was extended to the distinguished panellists, as well to all of the attendees. Some background was provided as to the purpose of the meeting including introducing the panellists and outlining the topics.

As with previous webinars, it was highlighted that the RPSG is not a mandatory organization, rather one which shares ideas and suggestions to be tabled to the Private Sector Consultative Group in Brussels, Belgium. Therefore, as always, RPSG members are encouraged to partake in discussions and to share their ideas.

2. Rules of Engagement

The rules of engagement were outlined, welcoming all participants with a stake in customs and trade related matters in the ESA region to join in. No registration was required. Participants were encouraged to engage via the chat features and pose their questions to the panellists as and when they arose. (Note the questions and answers section at the end of the report.)

The webinar was recorded and is available on the WCO ESA RPSG’s website and YouTube channel.

3. Panellists discussions

a. Lessons learned from COVID-19: Larry Liza & Patrick Gyan

Larry Liza thanked the RPSG team for setting up the webinar, noting that this is the 6th webinar in total, but importantly the 1st webinar during COVID-19. Overall, it is a difficult time for the world, and especially for Africa and the ESA region. Some COVID-19 statistics were provided, notably that at the time of the webinar, Africa has reported in excess of 94,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including around 1,800 deaths. The ESA region has about 28,000 cases with 500 deaths. It was also outlined that the ESA region normally accounts for 50% of the GDP and trade volumes in Africa but has recorded only approximately 25% of the COVID-19 cases.

Most revenues authorities have experienced drops of up to 10% in revenue over the last month, with April and May expected to follow similar patterns. Most countries in the region are on full or partial lockdown, except Tanzania. Most countries in the region implemented an initial lockdown of around 14 to 30 days, which has been extended by an average of around 21 days, largely to End-May. Most revenue authorities have either worked from home or in shifts to avoid excessive contact and adhere to social distancing. The big challenge most workers have had is to work remotely because ICT is confined to the local area network.

Patrick Gyan noted the difficulty in adapting to business during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the perspective of the WCO, we’ve been privy to the numerous analyses which have been put out there by international organizations drawing out attention to how the pandemic has affected the economy, health while changing organizations’ way of doing business. Notably, COVID-19 has affected border operations, negatively impacting on trade, travel and transport. Customs as one of the key organizations of the frontier have most definitely been affected. Yet, customs have had to maintain day-to-day operations to safeguard the security of the supply chain. The other matters have included the responsibility of customs organizations to protect their staffs, which has been well communicated by the WCO and its 183 member administrations. As a follow-up, the Secretary General has requested member countries to provide some feedback as to their experiences. To this end, a survey has been conducted (which is still in progress) for members to share their best practices and how they are supporting their various governmental entities in combatting the pandemic. The other immediate thing that has happened was to communicate the situation on the medical supplies. The HS classification on the medical supplies related to COVID-19 was very important. 

The WCO have liaised with the World Health Organization to ensure that all relevant information on medical supplies can be shared with business members for their benefit.t. The study has attracted a strong response — about 12 countries from the ESA region have taken part and responses are still coming in. Generally, it has enabled the WCO to categorise the measures undertaken in symptomatic areas that can be shared as best practices and experiences so that other organisations and people in business and other membered administrations can adopt them. Essentially, what the WCO has done is to look at how members have responded in facilitating relief goods and supplies essential to the economy. These include measures in place to support the economy and to keep the supply chain running. Measures to protect staff and to generally safeguard the health and safety of society formed part of the survey.

The survey established the need to engage with partners — such as the WHO and beyond — and include collaboration for instance on the treatment of relief items. For example, the UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) became an active partner in ensuring that we provide members with quality information on that. Importantly, the WCO is constantly collaborating with the Private Sector Consulting Group on business related issues. There have been joint statements with international partners, such as IRU and Chamber of Commerce and many more. Finally, we are looking for developmental partnerships to ensure that we’ll be able to provide customs administrations with reports on how to treat or respond to emergencies in times like the present. To ensure that the normal customs business process runs smoothly. There has been a lot of work and coordination around this. We are all working from home as well, offering remote assistance to WCO member countries where we can. 

b. AEO: New developments during and after COVID-19: Fermin Cuza

The COVID-19 experience has taught us how connected and vulnerable we all are and how much we need each other. The issues we face in one region may easily be the same issue being faced in other parts of the world. We need to share and implement solutions. The focus will therefore be on the AEO programme from a global position as a PSCG member under the WCO. Fermin shared some steps BASC (Business Alliance for Secure Commerce) has taken to assist members to maintain their security during this crisis. Some of these ideas could prove useful to East and Southern Africa region members. It did not take long for us to realise that we are in something that we have never experience before. We are improvising without a formula and learning as we go along.

We’ve tried to move forward in three areas:

  • Audits

Member companies are required to submit an annual audit. Audits are very much aligned as AEO validations. We have realised that we could not do the same audits that we have traditionally done. Many of the companies were closing down, reducing staff, working from home. In this environment we looked at virtual audits or remote audits and developed procedures. In these procedures we outline the protocols that we would follow in conducting virtual audits. I am pleased to say, that since April 21st until a few days ago we have conducted over 150 of these virtual audits. The experience so far has proven that all of us can take advantage of the technology that exists today to verify compliance with AEO requirements. We have had favourable responses from the companies and remain convinced that virtual audits work.  It is something that we should fully embrace during this period and consider using this new method of verifying compliance beyond the COVID period.

  • Training

During the COVID crisis BASC has conducted over 120 webinars, training sessions and workshops. These events have been attended by over 10 000 people, which is more than would have usually been conducted in the same 60-90-day period.

  • Working together

The third thing has to do with what we are doing here today – working together. We have learned from the crisis how dependent we are on each other.

The PSCG has proposed that the AEO programmes should continue giving extension to companies as their certification come due., it has been approved at our level and has now been forwarded to the WCO for consideration and application on a global level. We realised that during this period, Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) are more important than ever. We are developing improvisations for individual customs administrations and AEO programmes as they develop procedures for operating under the COVID crisis as they need AEO programmes consider their MRA obligations. This issue must also receive special attention.

Facilitation is the next issue. AEO programmes promise facilitation benefits to their members and it is very important in this period that facilitation benefits are fully employed, otherwise, we will lose credibility. We are encouraged by the process of a document presented to the WCO urging members to consider the facilitations benefits that are being offered to companies to ensure that they are fully available. We should also take this opportunity to look at other important benefits that we may have missed, in order to maintain the flow of commerce.

The second recommendation discussed at the PSCG is the focus of a second paper we will be preparing on virtual validation. We realised that virtual validation in one country is fine, but AEO is a global programme that was developed under the SAFE framework of standards in 2005. Each customs administration cannot simply implement their own AEO changes and virtual validation. Rather they should do it as far as possible in a standardised manner. It will be done by members at the WCO SAFE working group and members of the PSCG.   We need WCO leadership through the SAFE working group, but also the entities at the WCO to work together with the members and with the private sector through the PSCG to develop these protocols for the purpose of conducting virtual validations.

We need to look at the validation technology. Companies have issues so far as security, so we need to agree on a secure efficient platform in order for these validations to take place. We need to recognise that after all these years we are still operating in a paper world. We need to digitize and automate. If we’re talking about virtual validation, it is more important than ever that the documents and the evidence that a company is compliant with AEO, is in a format to enable sharing with validators to enhance efficiencies.  We also believe that a written agreement between the company and customs is fundamental, so that there is a clear understanding of how the virtual validation will take place with the obligations of each party. And finally we think that once you have the recipe and you are ready to go and cook your pie, there needs to be tasting. 

And so it is key that a virtual validation protocol at the WCO level under the SAFE framework of standards be tested so that we can see if there are any issues that we might have missed. Finally, the whole issue of MRA’s needs to be reviewed because of this new relationship and an obligation to make sure that what we do in one country is also fully vetted and discussed with the others when you have an MRA.

There were a few other things I wanted to touch on; looking at the questions and the agenda addressed to me. How can we emphasise the role of AEO to facilitate legitimate trade in crisis times?

The most important thing here is trust. Trust is the foundation of the AEO programme and is the foundation of the SAFE Framework of Standards. Under Pillar I we talk about customs having trust in other customs and working together but there is also the issue of trust between customs and the trade. It is very important that this trust be kept in mind. We have been working together since 2005 so there should by now be a certain level of trust between customs and the trade. We need to leverage trade associations, groups like this and other international organizations and take advantage of them. Trade associations are key and customs should be looking at taking advantage of that resource to promote changes and develop new ideas. We need a robust AEO programme that ensures the commitment by companies and the AEO validators. We have to have a serious programme that works which includes all the things that are necessary to fully establish that a company is compliant and trustworthy. Then we can go to work on the facilitation benefits.

We also need greater participation by SMEs, SMEs are critical, they carry the inputs that are for the mass, for all the things that are so essential today in dealing with this crisis, SMEs have always been important and in our organisations two thirds of the companies are SMEs. We have established that SMEs can fully participate in these international security programmes such as AEO and we need to get them more involved. We also need to look at the benefits of facilitation, fast-lanes, fewer inspections; and to make sure these benefits are being fully utilised and in place. This is how we can emphasise the role of AEO to facilitate legitimate trade during this particular time and beyond.

How can we make the AEO pie larger so as to make a greater impact on global trade movements?

C-TPAT — the AEO programme in the United States — has 11 500 members, which represents 50% of all the imports. In the US, clearly there is a critical mass of companies that are AEO certified -what the C-TPAT seems to be happy with. So that allows them to facilitate trade for those companies and focus at the same time on companies that are not AEO. To make a greater impact, we don’t necessarily need a 100% participation. However, it seems that many customs administrations lack an understanding of border risk management, and the importance of the SAFE and how working with the trade is key to developing the benefits that truly facilitate trade in their countries.

How can SMEs benefit as they provide essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis?

One of the things that I think is overlooked by SMEs and Customs as well is that SMEs need to see the AEO programme as a way of putting them in a position to compete with larger companies. AEO programmes, certainly in the US Customs C-TPAT do not discriminate. A small company can participate as a member as much as a big company. In fact it may be even easier for a small company to participate, so I think that once SMEs realise the tremendous competitive benefit of the AEO programmes – and we should be selling that to

SMEs – I think we can see greater interest in participating, and not to be afraid joining the AEO programme presents insurmountable barriers are insurmountable or that the cost involved in joining an AEO programme has to do with personnel and policies and procedures and practices vs going on and spending x amount of dollars in investments.

How do we streamline the AEO process to build up virtual processes?

Virtual validations will take some time. We need WCO leadership because it is a global programme and we can’t have 180 different AEO programmes in spite of our differences. We need to look at how we can digitize and promote the digitization of documentation for easy exchange between customs and the companies. We need to identify the requirements that can be verified through technology. Not every item in an AEO programme can readily lend itself to remote verification, but there are some that can easily be in that category. We should be looking at those, identifying them and implementing them now. We can start by using remote verification by phone and certainly email and all the technology that we have now. There is a lot of things we can do. And, as I mentioned, we need to test all these things through a pilot. We shouldn’t be afraid of innovation, of working together or of thinking outside the box.

How do we promote the effectiveness of AEO around the world?

We need a strong commitment from customs Director-Generals, the person at the top needs to really look at this tool and see how it can benefit Customs, countries, the economies and the companies that operate in their jurisdiction. But we need that commitment from the top. We need to engage trade groups like this group and leverage them to promote the AEO programme. We need to offer more training, more workshops. We need to automate the process of AEO from the beginning, applying and maintaining your AEO status. We need to look at all the technology that exists today and get away from any paper that may be currently required. We need to offer real benefits, things that can be measured so that a company can see “yes, I joined the AEO programme, and as a result I see a reduction in my inspections because customs trust me, and I can now enjoy being a trusted trader and receive facilitation benefits”.

Finally, we need to embrace the SAFE framework of standards, the basic document that supports all the good things that we are doing in modernising customs around the world. There are three pillars in the SAFE framework of standards.  The first is trust between customs and the second is customs trusting business. The third relatively new one deals with, customs in a given country needing to work with other agencies and streamline the process through collaboration. Customs can take a lead role in coordinating these interests of other agencies so that the shipment can truly enjoy facilitation benefits. 

c. Cross-border road freight and in transit cargo movements: Kazem Asayesh

Kazem Asayesh first provided some background on the IRU — the world road transport organization — which is the global voice of companies providing commercial road transport, mobility, logistics and services. IRU represents around 3,5 million transport companies across all sectors. IRU works with issues at the heart of the industry. Kazem then shared some of the results of the IRUs in-depth analysis that they made using their network of member associations, looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the transport of both goods and passengers. 

Notably, there was an overall downturn in the transport of goods and passengers, especially in terms of revenue. Kazem indicated that SMEs, which make up 80% of the road transport industry are especially at risk of bankruptcy. We did not see a unified and coordinated reaction by governments and even European countries did not take a unilateral approach. In some cases, there were up to 60km long queues at borders in Europe. Another practice was drivers quarantined for up to 14 days or being denied access to countries. There has been partial or full closure of borders for passengers and sometimes freight transport. Limiting access of freight transport mostly took place in West and Central Asia. Strict controls and sanitary measures were taken by governments, some of them using convoys for the transit of trucks, which is not a recommended action as this has led to accidents with death and severe injuries. 

Some countries designated routes, parking areas and fuel stations for transit and transport, which was a good practice. There was an increase in transhipment because trucks could not cross borders. In some countries we saw a shift in mode of transport, for example from road to rail or from maritime or air transport to road transport. In brief, these restrictive measures have stopped or significantly reduced border-crossing transport and increased cost and time of transport.

One of the main issues is the daily changes in the rules and regulations of countries. Through the IRU’s network we started to collect and share updated information on the latest status of border-crossings and new decisions taken by local authorities. This was very helpful to at least update everybody on what is happening on the ground. We established a dedicated webpage on COVID-19. We made this available, not only to the IRU’s members, but to the public. We also prepared recommendations for drivers from a sanitary point of view. At the global level we worked with UN and other international organisations, calling on them to react. We sent letters to more than 20 international organisations and we worked on joint statements, including the one with WCO. 

In the context of PSCG we issued a paper introducing some measures that could be taken to reduce the impact of COVID-19. PSCG has been active during this pandemic. Furthermore, we directly contacted and sent letters to high-level national authorities to react and to remove measures that had a negative impact on the global supply chain. With regards to the lessons learned and the required actions we have created a list which we have shared with many international organisations at a regional, national, and international level. 

Proposed measures to maintain supply chain:

  1. To implement measures in a coordinated and unified way. 
  2. The second recommendation is to clearly communicate changes in enforcement measures including on vehicles, drivers, and cargo. For this we have created a dedicated COVID-19 webpage with flash info. 
  3. The third recommendation is to ensure coordinated cross-border interventions in cooperation with other national border agencies and implement international standards such as the TIR Convention. 
  4. To avoid closing borders to the international transport of goods. Unfortunate in some countries the borders are closed even for freight and essential goods. 
  5. Designate priority lanes such as TIR/EPD green lanes for commercial vehicles at all borders which will reduce the time and cost of transport at borders. EPD is an Electronic Pre-Declaration, so it could facilitate at least the risk management and expedite the process of releasing trucks. 
  6. Avoid unnecessary checking of commercial vehicles at borders. 
  7. Not quarantining drivers active in international transport if they don’t show symptoms of COVID-19. 
  8. Allow for maximum flexibility on the interpretation of driving rules and restrictions and tolerance measures to prolong the validity of expired control documents including visas, certificates and licences. 
  9. Designate road transport workers as key workers, giving them priority access to proper protection and disinfection equipment and material.

With regard to convention – for those that are not familiar with this system – TIR is a UN convention which is the only global transit system enabling goods to be shipped from one country to another passing through transit countries in sealed load compartments that are controlled by customs via a multilateral, mutually recognised system. The benefit of this system for such a pandemic is that TIR system and its IT tools allow secure transport under Customs control with limited physical checks and less contact between people at borders, thus reducing the risk of spreading the virus and protecting customs officers and driver.

Further to the recommendations above — and to provide some recommendations for the ESA region — one of the issues with regards to this region is that road transport and logistics sector in this region is not heard globally. Another issue is that this region is not benefitting from existing global standards and best practices such as TIR convention. We encourage ESA countries to accede to the TIR Convention. Accession to convention is not an easy job, it takes a long time, so it may not help to address such a pandemic in a short period of time. IRU is ready to work with the region to provide other services and solutions on border crossing including through cooperation with the WCO. 

Last, but not least, the ESA region could benefit from IRU information sharing platform and use it during COVID-19, but for this we need to receive information and updates about the situation in the region so that we can share it with the region and with the whole world. 

How do you think we can, in the ESA region, become members of the IRU?

IRU membership are those who are active in the road transport sector. Usually our members are road transport national associations but any other association which is relevant or even international or national transport companies or even companies which somehow are related to road transport could join IRU. If anyone is interested send me an email and I will provide you with further information which also exists on our website.

Do you know about our region on the CTMS (Corridor Transit Management System) that is being launched in the SADC region?

Kazem noted that, although not being overly familiar with the CTMS, the main issue is that in Africa only a few countries who have acceded to the TIR convention in North Africa (Egypt and Morocco). But in the ESA, there are currently no members. We are ready to work with you and WCO, to sit together and to find a solution for the region. Either you can join the TIR convention, or the other possibility is to work jointly with some regional players and also the WCO to establish some kind of transit system, based on the experience we have with the TIR system.

4. Questions and Answers

Hereafter follows some questions raised by attendees during the Webinar titled ‘Fast-Tracking Cross Border Flows in a Crisis’.

Lessons Learned – under COVID-19 (Larry Liza and Patrick Gyan)

  1. Patrick – is the current survey to members only. Would it not be worthwhile to also include trade or do a separate survey to trade?

Response from Patrick Gyan: “The current survey focused on Members’ experiences and best practices only. It will be added value to gain more knowledge on the experiences and coping strategies adopted by trade in response to COVID-19. A combined survey would however mean to widen the scope of parameters measured to accommodate private sector realities as well. It requires collaborative work with the private sector e.g. PSCG at global level or ESA-RPSG at regional level, and this is welcome.”

  • Patrick – what is your view of the differences in treatment of essential goods between member states?

Response from Patrick Gyan:Members’ best practices to facilitation of relief and essential goods were varied but, all measures shared in the survey are indicative of reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks in the customs clearance process to ensure speedy flow of cross-border goods during the pandemic. The WCO survey is not focused on a comparative study, it rather aggregated country practices under common regulatory measures in order to serve as a useful guide.”

  • A number of customs officers have been found positive with COVID-19 arising from their work. Is WCO considering uniformity in protective clothing for officers globally?

Response from Patrick Gyan:This is a useful suggestion the WCO could explore with Member countries and other stakeholders.”

AEO, new development during and after COVID-19 (Fermin Cuza)

  • What is your view on MRA and rather replacing with uniform WCO standards being applied across countries and accepted by countries?
  • Your accelerated training program is very impressive – how did you mobile and can you share some best practises and approach?
  • How can we make AEO more attractive to MSME?
  • Fermin — I notice sadly tax loss on the part of revenue arising from documentary fraud. How can trust be achieved?

Road/Land modality in the ESA – Region and what we can learn from the World as a Region (Kazem Asayesh)

  • Kazem — your research shows very interesting results especially around the uncoordinated approach — how did you manage this to get resolved as we are currently experiencing this on a major scale? How did you collect the information around border delays/impacts — we are really struggling to get this co-ordinated?

Response from Kazem Asayesh: “We use our network and member associations for collecting data and information. We have members in over 100 countries, which also includes multiple sources of contact with those working on border crossings, such as border and customs agencies. We are also working through our associations and directly with governments to solve issues at borders. IRU likewise has exclusive access to other information sources that permits IRU to collect data on border activity in a timely manner.”

  • For membership of the IRU, what would be the costs?

Response from Kazem Asayesh: “The IRU has two categories of membership. Here is the information related to each category:

Active Membership:

Active Membership is open to national organizations which are non-profitmaking and which are representative of each sector of road transport activity: professional transport of passengers, transport of goods for hire and reward and transport of goods on own account; as well as national organizations, which are non-profitmaking, and which represent the main categories within the sectors of road transport activity.

The annual subscription for active membership amounts to CHF 10’000, per calendar year. 

Associate Membership

Associate Membership is open to national and international non-profitmaking organizations, participating directly or indirectly in road transport activities.

The annual subscription for Associate membership amounts to CHF 3’000, per calendar year. 

Associate membership is likewise open to national and international companies and other profit-making enterprises, participating directly or indirectly in road transport activities. Annual fees are based on annual sales turnover.

There is also a one-time 500 CHF application fee. Membership fees are then invoiced towards the end of the calendar year, for the following year.”

10. Please provide method of joining as uniformity could have been achieved with a wider membership on your part.

Response from Kazem Asayesh: “An application submitted in writing to membership@iru.org, containing the following documentation:  

  • a letter addressed to IRU’s Secretary General, Mr. Umberto de Pretto, expressing your interest in becoming a member. Please include countries where you are active or have offices and the number of employees. You may also submit an organigram of the company.  
  • a copy of the company’s statues/bylaws or equivalent in your country and of the rules of procedure (if any)
  • official documents about the structure, type and importance of your activities (including years of activity), such as an annual report 
  • a list of other associations you are members of
  • an audited financial statement or provisional statement for the preceding financial year (if audited statements not available yet) clearly indicating the consolidated turnover of the group of companies 
  • any other documents or material that can help us when considering your application (such as an ISO certificate, for instance).

All new IRU member applications are approved by IRU’s Presidential Executive, which meets several times per year. Membership becomes active once the first membership fee is paid.  

Before processing applications for Membership, the IRU Presidential Executive shall take all appropriate steps to obtain the required information about the applicant from reliable sources and, in particular, from the Active Members in the country concerned.

As a non-exhaustive indication, the following organisations cannot be recognised as being “representative of each sector of road transport activity” or “representative of the main categories within the sectors of road transport activity” in the sense intended in Article 4 of the IRU Constitution:

  • organisations which have had a legal existence of less than 3 years and/or which do not have a sufficient number of members to be representative, at the national level, 
  • regional organisations of a given country and their regional umbrella federations, 
  • national organisations established or financed by the State or which transport operators are obliged to join, and their national umbrella federations,
  • national or international organisations that essentially fulfil the functions of transport forwarder and agent, and their national or international umbrella federations,
  • national or international organisations which essentially fulfil the function of chamber of commerce with the exception of those already admitted to the IRU,
  • political organisations,
  • organisations exclusively grouping private individuals.

5. Closure

Closing remarks:

Patrick Gyan:

There are two things that I have picked up. What I gathered is that in this crisis there is a need for continued communication and collaboration. It is not going to end now and in a post-COVID era hopefully we have deepened these kinds of relationships. The other thing I picked up is that we should be more innovative and not fear to venture. From a customs background, based on our nature, we hesitate to become more innovative. This is a time to really take up some of the programmes that we have hesitated on. We are looking at paperless customs for example, now is the time to really appreciate that customs’ work is to operate on that model or in that environment. It goes back to what Fermin said about the AEO programme and accommodating innovation in that regard. 

Larry Liza

I would like to say one or two things in every aspect in every sense outlined in the agenda. I think when we were talking about difficulties, we mentioned a low revenue, another difficulty that I would like to go on record saying is that we have faced issues of technology. Specifically, it has been a difficulty and an opportunity at the same time. Matters of e-commerce as well, but also the lack of PPE’s for customs officers across East and Southern Africa. On the matter of effects of regulations, I think that one is known to everyone, mainly on the freedom of movement, taking into account that most countries went on lockdown and the definite economic impact thereof. On matters of policy suggestions under regulatory amendments, I will go with what Patrick said on asking members to put in special policies for relief consignments. Finally, on the lessons learnt, I wanted to point out three things that I would want everyone to see. 

  • There is very strong need for investment in ICT infrastructure. We only have about 50% efficiency in IT infrastructure in this region, compared to Western Europe. It is our hope that revenue administrations are going to put more focus on ICT infrastructure. 
  • Innovation and domestic industry, especially in light of a weakening domestic industry. 
  • The importance of e-commerce and emerging technologies, which we are going to need more than ever. We are going to use blockchain more; we are going to use drones and customs robotics as it will decrease the intrusion on people and personnel.

Juanita Maree

A heartfelt message of appreciation was given to the panellists for participating in the webinar titled ‘FastTracking Cross Border Flows in a Crisis’.

The experience was one of immense value — once again highlighting the need for collaboration and reliance on expert guidance such as the guidance from yourselves and your respective organisations. The world has been truly shaken up by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, evident from the experience of many, many people during this time, a substantial amount of work can be done if done collectively.

The WCO ESA RPSG looks forward to continued collaboration and constant innovation in customs and trade related matters for the ESA region and indeed for the globe. Together, great things can be achieved!

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