At the invitation of the African Union (AU), WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya visited Moroni, Comoros to attend the 10th AU Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs, held on 20 and 21 September 2018.
At the opening ceremony, Secretary General Mikuriya underlined the importance of Customs’ contribution to the future implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), through the application of WCO instruments.
In this connection, he affirmed that the AU’s general theme for this year, namely “Fighting Corruption”, could be linked to the WCO’s theme of “A Secure Business Environment”, given that improving integrity formed the basis of efforts by the global Customs community to foster trust between the public and private sectors in terms of security and economic competitiveness.
Dr. Mikuriya also announced the launch of the Harmonized System (HS) capacity building project in Africa, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the WCO. The AU Commissioner of Customs for Trade and Industry, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, emphasized the importance of prompt ratification of the CFTA signed in March by Heads of States in Africa.
After congratulating Secretary General Mikuriya on his re-election and thanking him for being a friend of Africa, Mr. Muchanga expressed his wish for ongoing partnership with the WCO in a range of areas. Mr. Saïd Ali Chayhane, Comoros Minister of Finance and Budget, then officially opened the Committee meeting.
During the Committee meeting, chaired by Mr. Kalaldine Souefou, Director General of Comoros Customs, the Directors General reviewed the report of the Expert Meeting held from 17 to 19 September, finalized the draft AU Trade Facilitation Strategy and adopted the Moroni Declaration on Customs’ Fight Against Corruption.
Members also enjoyed a panel session on the fight against corruption in Customs, during which Dr. Mikuriya shared WCO activities in this area, aimed at making Customs a showcase for tackling this common problem. Representatives of the East African Community and three Customs administrations then shared their experience.
At the closing ceremony, His Excellency Mr. Azali Assoumani, President of Comoros, addressed the meeting with his vision of promoting tourism and trade through investment in transport infrastructure, stressing the importance of security and the fight against corruption. He saw a crucial role for Customs in this respect and urged the entire nation to enhance the fight against corruption, which affected not only Customs but all administrative and economic sectors.
Secretary General Mikuriya had a bilateral meeting with President Azali Assoumani, who congratulated him on his re-election and expressed his appreciation for the WCO’s assistance in modernizing Customs. The President then pledged his country’s unceasing support for reform.
In a separate meeting with Minister Said Ali Chayhane, who had made his career in Customs and was himself a former Director General of Customs, Dr. Mikuriya welcomed the recent political support for Customs, exemplified by the substantial reduction in exemptions, and discussed ways of supporting the plan to establish a training centre.
Dr. Mikuriya added that, in 2017, the WCO had supported Single Window implementation in Comoros and he underscored the role and importance of technology in the establishment of a fair and simplified trade environment and in the fight against corruption.
He also met the resident representatives of United Nations (UN) agencies in Comoros, including UNICEF, UNDP and WHO, to explain the WCO’s approach with regard to coordinated border management through which Customs can contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for its 2030 Agenda. The discussions focused on various topics relating to counterfeiting, fake drugs, and licit and illicit trade.
The participants in the AU meeting appreciated the excellent organization and warm hospitality of Comoros Customs and the support of the Comoros authorities.