Last update: 9th September 2020

Various institutions (such as the WCO, WTO, WB, ITC, UNCTAD, etc.) produce necessary research around Customs and trade-related matters concerning the private sector throughout the ESA region. The WCO ESA RPSG aims to share many of these on the website and consequently avoid working in silos and letting pertinent enquiries fall through the cracks. Matters of interest include experiences of commercial realities, advances in technology, changes in trade agreements, etc. It is only by sharing and fostering a collaborative approach that we will benefit as a region.

Best Practices Globally

   i. World Customs Organisation

The WCO is an independent intergovernmental body aimed at enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of Customs administrations. The WCO develops international standards in terms of customs, facilitates trade, and provides leadership, guidance and support to Customs administrations. They release news items on an almost-daily basis and more in-depth research on relevant topics such as rules of origin, enforcement and compliance, capacity building, etc.

  ii. World Trade Organisation

The WTO is the only of its kind, a global international organisation that deals with the rules of trade between countries. The WTO’s primary goal is to liberalise and open trade to ensure that all countries benefit. They provide a forum for nations to negotiate trade agreements and settle trade disputes. The conference also aims to assist developing countries. The WTO cannot force decisions upon member countries. Member governments make all decisions. The WTO releases annual reports, such as the World Trade Report, along with regular publications on all trade-related topics throughout the year. CLICK! is the WCO’s online learning platform where Customs officers (along with scholars and private professionals) can access a “gold mine” of information and training material.

iii. The World Bank Group

The World Bank Group (WB) provides funding and technical assistance to developing countries. They provide zero or low-interest credits and grants while delivering policy advice, research and analysis, and technical assistance. The WB does a large amount of research on a vast number of topics, ranging from gender equality in trade to bank risk analysis. They release full reports on a variety of issues, and in addition to these full reports, publish the Doing Business Report annually, which assesses the ease with which countries can do business (ranking and giving scores). They also have other resources, such as blog posts, books, policy notes, and working papers.

 iv. World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international organisation for Public-Private co-operation. It is an independent non-profit organisation that focuses on driving positive change by bringing together the public and private sector to improve the global economy. They release annual reports such as The Global Risk Report and the Global Gender Gap Report as well as weekly reports relating to relevant topics ranging from “The internet of bodies” to plastic waste. They also provide valuable research in terms of the indices they release, which include the Global Competitivity Index, Enabling Trade Index and the Network Readiness Index. The WEF has, in recent years, shifted their focus significantly toward the global movement toward a more digitalised world, specifically in terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

  v. International Trade Centre

The International Trade Centre (ICT) is a development agency that aims to strengthen the integration of the business sector of developing countries by assisting them in transitioning into the global economy. Their primary focus is to improve the international competitiveness and overall performance of trade of SMEs. The ITC has developed market analysis tools such as a market access map, trade map and export potential map, among others, to provide SMEs with the necessary trade data to make informed trade decisions. They also offer a variety of publications aimed at assisting small businesses in entering into and navigating the world of trade.

 vi. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation aimed at improving the lives of all people. The OECD co-operates with governments, policymakers, and citizens to find solutions and establish global standards to a range of challenges ranging from social to economic to environmental. The OECD has a valuable resource, namely the Trade Facilitators Indicators (TFI), which guide governments in terms of improving border procedures, reducing trade costs, and boosting trade flows by identifying areas for action. It allows countries to identify their strengths and weaknesses in terms of trade facilitation, which enables them to focus their resources where it is most needed.

vii. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), similarly to the ITC, focuses on assisting developing countries in accessing the benefits offered by the global economy efficiently and fairly while equipping them to deal with the potential drawbacks. UNCTAD releases several annual reports, including the Trade and Development, World Investment and Trade in Services Reports, along with quarterly and weekly publications.

viii. International Air Transport Association

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 290 airlines or 82% of total air traffic. IATA supports many areas of aviation activity and helps formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues. Additionally, IATA publishes fundamental research that provides feedback to the industry in terms of the industry performance, air passenger and air freight analysis, and financial information on the air industry as a whole.

 ix. International Road Transport Union

The International Road Transport Union (IRU) was founded 70 years ago in Geneva to facilitate trade, international road transport, and passenger mobility and to support sustainable development worldwide. The IRU’s critical mission across Africa is to support governments and the private sector in reducing the cost of trade in general. The high costs incurred by the transportation of goods, be it at production points or import or export zones, have a financial impact on consumers. A combination of factors, including poor infrastructure and lengthy border controls ultimately affect the attractiveness of African nations to investors. By working with national governments, regional economic communities, and the private sector, IRU is helping businesses and transport operators look at ways to reduce the cost of trade and connect with global and regional markets via ports and trade corridors more efficiently.

Progress in the ESA Region

   i. World Customs Organization East and Southern Africa Regional Office for Capacity Building (WCO ESA ROCB)

The Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) is a regional Capacity Building initiative driven by the efforts and needs of the Members of the six WCO regions.

Modernisation of Customs services depends on the individual Members and full engagement with their governments. The WCO regional structures are there to support the Secretariat and regional Members in mobilising resources and developing partnerships to deliver the necessary wide range of organisational development services, training, and technical assistance activities.

In the ESA region, the ROCB office resides in Nairobi, Kenya, and are focused on developing gender-equitable, professional and modernised Customs administrations that are fair, efficient, and effective in revenue collection and border management services.

The ROCB’s strategy is to deepen regional integration through trade facilitation, revenue collection, and protection of the society and enhance human capital development and integrity in the 24 Member countries. The strategy is done through effective coordination and delivery by the ESA Regional Office for Capacity Building and Regional Training Centres, supported by the Vice Chair’s Office.

The ROCB communicates extensively on regional Customs and trade-related matters on their website —

  ii. World Customs Organization East and Southern Africa Regional Office for Capacity Building (WCO ESA RILO)

The exchange of intelligence at national, regional and international levels is a critical mechanism in rendering enforcement actions by Customs authorities more effectively and securing the optimum use of available resources. At the strategic level, the WCO has incorporated the aim of intelligence exchange among all stakeholders, recognising the contribution this objective has in furthering the protection of society, public health and safety. The first Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) was therefore established in 1987with the intent of creating a Global Intelligence Network.

Today the RILO network has grown to 11 offices providing adequate coverage throughout all six WCO regions. RILO offices are located in the following territories: Eastern and Central Europe, Western Europe, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), North Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, and South America.

The WCO ESA RILO recently launched a website of their own – – which aims to enhance the effectiveness of global information and intelligence exchange as well as co-operation between all Customs administrations tasked with combatting transnational crimes.

The website has both public and private portals and has been foreseen to complement the existing communications tools used by RILO ESA for collecting and analysing data. Knowledge is then inferred from the data and shared to enhance Customs enforcement.

iii. Industry websites and Commentators is a website established by Mike Poverello, who worked in South African Customs for 29 years, consulting with the likes of the ICT on several Customs system modernisation programmes. The blog, titled “What Happened to the Portcullis?” provides valuable insight and explanations on very current and relevant Customs topics in the Southern African region.

Of particular interest in terms of Time Release Studies (TRSs) has been the recent research conducted in Brazil, which is covered extensively here. On 30 June 2020, the Secretariat of the Federal Revenue of Brazil (Receita Federal do Brasil) launched its first-ever nation-wide TRS during an online live broadcasted event attended by over 4,000 participants – including border agencies and the private sector, as well as Customs administrations from across the globe. The TRS follows the World Customs Organizations (WCO) TRS Methodology and constitutes a milestone for the Brazilian Customs Administration. The TRS further enhances transparency while providing an opportunity for evidence-based dialogue between all key stakeholders to address the identified bottlenecks and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures.