Archives For IT Inter Connectivity

WCO Transit GuidelinesYes, the info junkie I am – this is what I was really after! The WCO chose to delay the real stuff. The WCO has published its Transit Guidelines, and a substantial compendium its is. Click here to access/download the file (5,4MB)! The WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, has noted the possibility of developing a separate publication on transit encompassing national or regional best practices.

At the recent conference on transit, particular attention was given to the difficulties faced by landlocked developing countries.  During a special session on the issue, the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), several concrete suggestions were made on how to turn land-lockedness into land-linkedness.  The Director General of Paraguay Customs indicated that trade transactions in his country incur 30% additional costs due to Paraguay’s geographical limitations.  The Representative from UN-OHRLLS confirmed that on average, LLDCs bear up to 40 % additional costs on trade transactions.  The investment being made in hard infrastructure, such as roads, rail infrastructure, intermodal logistical hubs and dry inland ports, remains one of the main priorities in order to improve the situation.  Participants confirmed the need for harmonization and simplification of border control procedures, as well as the promotion of ICT for the management of transit systems.  This is of significant importance to LLDCs in Africa of which there are eight!.

Representatives from  several of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities present at the Conference, such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), also highlighted the need to ensure that establishment functioning legal frameworks are in place to address the main challenges of regional transit regimes.

The use of existing information and communication technology (ICT) solutions was also raised at the Conference.  Today, numerous technologies are available to secure the movement of goods, such as electronic Customs seals which are actively used on containers transported from China to Europe and have proved to be reliable and efficient.  The regional electronic tracking system used for goods transiting between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda was also mentioned as a successful project resulting from cooperation between neighbouring Customs administrations.  The Representative from ECOWAS informed participants that work has started to connect the IT systems of ECOWAS Members.  Regarding the challenges related to interconnectivity, the benefits of global implementation of the WCO Data Model were pointed out.

Railway transport is playing an increasingly important role in moving goods between countries in Eurasia, as explained by the Representatives from China and Russia Customs as well as the Representative from the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF).  It was pointed out that block trains now bring goods from China to Europe through Russia and Central Asian countries within a fortnight; four times faster than via maritime routes.  It is worth nothing that in the absence of a global instrument regulating the movement of trains across borders, which would obviously be of benefit to transit operations, bilateral agreements are the norm.

Transit systems, such as the European Union’s New Computerised Transit System (NCTS), the Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) and relatively new transit facilitation initiatives in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), were also discussed in detail.  Turkey, a user of two transit systems – NCTS and TIR – highlighted the importance of digitalization of the transit processes and explained its involvement in the e-TIR project aimed at providing an exchange platform for all actors (Customs authorities, holders and guarantee chains) involved in the TIR system.  In this regard, Turkey has participated in two pilot projects with two neighbouring countries, namely Georgia and Iran. Source: the WCO

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At least 30 representatives of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recently met in Maseru – capital of the ‘Mountain Kingdom’ – Lesotho, to undertake a 5-day training workshop on the WCO Data Model, between 29 May to 2 June.

The training formed part of capacity building support to Member States to implement IT connectivity and information exchange between SACU Customs Administration. The training was facilitated by WCO Data Model Expert, Mr Carl Wilbers from South African Revenue Service (SARS) and GEFEG.FX software tool Expert, Mr. Martin Krusch from GEFEG, Germany.

The recent ratification of Annex E to the SACU agreement – on the use of Customs-2-Customs (C-2-C) Data Exchange between member states – paves the way for participating countries to exchange data within the terms of the agreement on the basis of the GNC Utility Block, also greed to by the respective member states. It also coincides with recent work on the establishment of a SACU Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) which must be implemented by the SACU countries in all export and transit data exchanges between themselves, respectively.

Just recently, in May 2017, the heads of SACU Customs administrations were presented a prototype demonstration of data exchange between the respective systems of the South African Revenue Service and the Swaziland Revenue Authority.

The WCO Data Model provides a maximum framework of standardized and harmonized sets of data and standard electronic messages (XML and EDIFACT) to be submitted by Trade for Cross-Border Regulatory Agencies such as Customs to accomplish formalities for the arrival, departure, transit and release of goods, means of transport and persons in international cross border trade.

The course was extremely comprehensive, providing SACU customs users the full spectrum of the power and capability which the GEFEG.FX software tool brings to the WCO’s Data Model. GEFEG is also the de facto Customs data modelling and data mapping tool for several customs and border authorities worldwide. It significantly enhances what was once very tedious work and simplifies the process of mapping data, ensuring that the user maintains alignment and consistency with the most up-to-date version of WCO data model. One of the more significant capabilities of the GEFEG.FX software is its reporting and publishing capability. For examples of this please visit the CITES electronic permitting toolkit and the EU Customs Data Model webpages, respectively. Pretty awesome indeed!

Users had the opportunity of mapping the SACU agreed data fields both manually as well as using the tool. The SACU group was able to add additional enhancements to its agreed data model, providing an added benefit of the work session.

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The WCO Policy Commission, held in Moscow, Russian Federation, from 5 to 7 December 2016 under the chairmanship of Mr. R. Davydov, brought to the fore the key role of Customs in creating a sustainable and efficient e-commerce ecosystem, reviving-up the exchange of data between stakeholders and enhancing risk-management through electronic interface. The other main topics discussed during the Commission pertained to trade facilitation, security, the enhancement of the Customs/Tax cooperation and the modernization of Customs administrations.

The newly established WCO Working Group on E-Commerce will work to tackle the different dimensions of e-commerce by collecting and exchanging best practices in the field, stocktaking and leveraging some of the ongoing work being carried out by other entities and drawing up proposals geared towards the development of practical solutions for the clearance of e-commerce shipments, including appropriate duty/tax collection mechanisms and control procedures.

Concerning the in-depth discussions on Custom /Tax cooperation, the WCO issued this year “Guidelines for strengthening cooperation and the exchange of information between Customs and Tax authorities at the national level” and will continue working on topics of common interest for Customs and Tax experts such as transfer pricing, drawback and Illicit Financial Flows (IFF).

During the Commission, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, confirmed the WCO Theme for 2017 “Data Analysis for Effective Border Management” and stressed the impact of the digital revolution and the need to address promptly the challenges posed to the global economy. The Secretary General invited all the WCO Members to promote and share information in the coming months on how they are leveraging the potential of data to advance and achieve their objectives and respond to the expectations of traders, transport and logistic operators, and governments.

As data analysis will be emphasized in 2017 as a force multiplier for Customs administrations, it is relevant to highlight that the WCO is carrying out a Study to collect best practices among its members to assess and promote initiatives in the area of e-commerce. A previous analysis of preliminary data underscored the need for digitalization of processes, better sharing of information between e-commerce stakeholders and customs for improved risk management and the necessity for harmonization in the low-value shipment processes. Source: WCO

WCO Data Model Workshop, Pretoria, South Africa, Dec. 2015

SARS’ EDI and Customs Business Systems representatives with WCO Data Model facilitators Mr. Giandeo Mungroo (2nd from the left) and Ms. Sue Probert (2nd from the right) [Photo – SARS]

Officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) last week attended a WCO workshop on the Data Model facilitated by Ms. Sue Probert and Mr. Giandeo Mungroo. The event, held in Pretoria, South Africa was sponsored by the CCF of China as part of the WCO’s Capacity Building endeavours to promote the adoption and use of customs standards and best practice amongst it’s  member states.

The workshop was requested by SARS ahead of new technical and systems developments and requirements informed by SARS’ new Customs Control and Duty Acts. Moreover, there are also political ambition to institute a Border Management Agency for the Republic of South Africa. All of this requires that SARS Customs has a robust electronic tool to assist the organisation in mapping national data requirements according to specific needs.

Besides the use of a value added Data Model tool – GEFEG, it is imperative for the organisation to develop capacity in the knowledge and understanding of the WCO Data Model. SARS has successfully EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) for the last 15 years with various local supply chain trading partners and government agencies. Over the last few years SARS has been actively pursuing and promoting IT connectivity with regional trading partners with the express purpose to extend the benefits of eCommerce across borders.

GEFEG.FX software is used to model data formats and develop implementation guidelines for data interchange standards such as UN/EDIFACT. It is a software tool that brings together modelling, XML schema development, and editing of classic EDI standards under a unified user interface, and supports the development of multilingual implementation guidelines.

Version 3 of the WCO Data Model brought about a distinct shift towards an ‘all-of-government’ approach at international borders with the introduction of the GOVCBR (Government Cross Border Regulatory) message. The message and underlying data requirements facilitate the exchange of customs and other government regulatory information to support a Single Window environment.

WCO Data Model not only includes data sets for different customs procedures but also information needed by other Cross-border Regulatory Agencies for the cross-border release and clearance at the border. The WCO Data Model supports the implementation of a Single Window as it allows the reporting of information to all government agency through the unique way it organizes regulatory information. This instrument is already 10 years old and is seeing increased use by WCO members.

Amongst the benefits derived from the workshop, SARS staff acquired the following competencies that will not only aid their work but business user support as well –

  • Competence in operating the tool to build a source control collaborative environment to support national and regional harmonization;
  • Competence to build a base to conduct national/ regional data harmonization based on the WCO Data Model to support national Single Window implementation as well as Regional Integration;
  • Competence to build systems/ electronic interfaces between Customs and its partner government agencies including a Border Management Agency; and
  • Provide needed competence to develop, maintain and publish national and regional information packages based on the WCO Data Model.

WCO Capacity Building Magazine 3rd Edition.ashxThe WCO – Sub – Saharan African Customs Modernization Programme funded by the government of Sweden comprises four projects, namely the WCO- EAC CREATe , the WCO– SACU Connect, the WCO– WACAM and the WCO– INAMA Projects. In their totality, the projects support regional Customs Unions in Africa in their mission to facilitate trade without compromising the security of their country and the safety of their citizens. The newsletter will appear quarterly and will inform on ongoing tasks as well as give an overview of future activities. Source: WCO

Sost_Pakistan_Customs_and_Chinese_TrucksPakistan Customs’ experts are in China to make further progress on the establishment of direct Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) with the trusted and neighbouring country to reduce the incidences of revenue losses.

The sources told Customs Today that Chief Customs Automation Abdul Qadir, Director Majid Yousfani, Riaz Chaudhary and Azeem from PRAL flew to China on August 9 to hold series of meetings with the Chinese counterparts to make further progress on the EDI.

The sources said, that the EDI will help access trade documents on real time basis from computers of cross-border customs stations. The directorate had exchanged the technical documents with China for EDI, the sources said, adding that the Chinese Customs had given feedback and counter proposal on the technical documents.

In order to expedite finalisation of the EDI arrangement, earlier a meeting with the Chinese Customs for exchange of data relating to the certificate of origin between the two countries was held on February 2 to 4, 2015 in Beijing. And, this is the second meeting of Pakistan Customs officers with the Chinese Customs, sources added.

It is recalled here, that Federal Board of Revenue had issued an alert regarding mis-declaration in imports from China under 50 HS Codes. The Board also showed concerns on the un-warranted concessions granted under various SROs covering preferential or free trade agreements.

The Board had advised verification of suspected Certificates of Origin directly through the commercial missions of Pakistan abroad, discouraging mis-classification of goods to obtain concessions and extending benefits only to goods which strictly matched the description provided in respective SROs.

It may be mentioned, that the export data of China customs for CY 2013 was cross matched with the import data of Pakistan Customs for same period and it transpired that in respect of 376 tariff lines the import value declared before Pakistan Customs was short by $2.437 billion recorded by China Customs as export value to Pakistan.

Moreover, in respect of 13 tariff lines the import value declared before Pakistan Customs was in excess of $829 million that that recorded by China Customs as export value to Pakistan. This is indicative of possible mis-classification of those goods which attract higher rates of duty but are cleared as goods attracting lower rates. Source: CustomsToday

SACU IT Connectivity ConferenceRepresentatives from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa recently to refine requirements towards the development IT connectivity and electronic data exchange to facilitate cross-border customs clearance in the region. The workshop was convened by the SACU Secretariat under the sponsorship of the Swedish government and technical support from the World Customs Organisation.

Work already commenced way back in 2012 on this initiative. Progress in the main has been hampered by the legal agreement which to date not all members of the Customs Union have ratified. One of the features of this initiative, however, has been the continuity of support rendered by the WCO.

This event was indeed fortunate to secure – once again – the services of S.P. Sahu, former head of Information Technology at the WCO. After his secondment to the WCO he is now back in his home country where he is the Commissioner for Single Window based in Delhi, India.

S.P’s years of experience in both the technical and operational spheres of customs and the international supply chain enable him to articulate concepts and solutions in a manner which are practical and simple to understand. The workshop recognised the need to accelerate border processes and to this end the border process should be limited to physical examination, inspection, release; declaration processes should be done away from borders.

While simple enough in theory, the notion of clearance away from borders could pose challenges. Many of Africa’s borders – including those of a ‘One Stop’ kind – have not fully embraced the need to integrate processing and synchronize Customs activities. The challenge posed by ‘regional integration’ is one of surrendering national imperatives for a common regional good. It imposes a co-ordination of and development towards ‘regional objectives’ with the same level of purpose as national states do for their domestic agenda’s. In the case of SACU, it challenges member state’s stance on what real benefits the customs union should aspire to, beyond the mere sharing of the common revenue pool.

The outcome of the workshop resulted in a more refined, do-able scope and objective. With Mr. Sahu’s experience and guidance, the revised Utility Block (UB) speaks to all facets (legal, operational and technical) of the ‘regional agreement’ to the extent it specifies in the required detail the programme of action required on the part of the member stats as well as the SACU Secretariat. Refinement of the UB includes the removal from scope of the Release Message, Manifest Information and bond/guarantee message for the purpose of simplification of customs processes.

What remains are –

  • An Export & Transit Message – which includes the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) validated and approved by the Export/Exit country.
  • An Arrival Confirmation/Notification Message – where the arrival date time would be when the import country recognises goods as received and places the goods under its customs procedure.
  • A Control Results Message – which includes the results of data matching, inspection and risk assessment based on agreed business rules.

In support of the above, SACU recently agreed on a framework of a UCR which must be further discussed and agreed upon by the respective member states. The UCR is a structured reference number which will be used by customs administrations of the respective member states to ‘link up’ import declaration data with the corresponding ‘export declaration’ data electronically exchanged by the export country.

Regional traders who have electronic clearance and forwarding capability will also play a role in the exchange of data through the exchange of the UCR on export and transit information with their counterparts or clients in the destination country. Once the exchange of data is operational between member states, it will be imperative for the importer to receive/obtain the UCR from the exporting country and apply it to his/her import declaration when making clearance with Customs.

The SACU Utility block will be tabled at a future Permanent Technical Committee meeting of the WCO for consideration and approval. A Utility Block is a concept structure which is proposed under the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) initiative which seeks to aid and assist its members in the operationalisation of Mutual Administrative Assistance agreements.

digital-ownershipIn the past, nations with the best ships and ports were able to establish global trade leadership and the growth that came along with it. Today, global trade has gone digital.

In the digital economy software-enabled products and services such as cloud computing and data analytics are the key drivers of growth and competitiveness. In fact, the world now invests more than $3.7 trillion (R40 trillion) on information and communications technologies a year.

In South Africa, we spend $26 billion a year and the total for the Middle East/Africa region is $228bn. However, to maximise our return on that investment, it is important for policymakers to eliminate barriers that could inhibit the continued expansion of digital trade.

It is clear that software-driven technology is transforming every sector of the global economy. For example, thanks to unprecedented processing power and vast data storage capabilities, banks can detect and prevent fraud by analyzing large numbers of transactions; doctors are now able to study historical trends in medical records to find more effective treatments; and manufacturers can pinpoint the sources of delays in global supply chains.

Against the backdrop of this kind of innovation, any country that wants to compete in today’s international marketplace must have a comprehensive digital agenda at the core of its growth and development strategy. In addition to domestic initiatives such as investment in education and skills training, or development of information technology infrastructure, policymakers can succeed in laying the groundwork for broad-based growth in the digital age if they focus on three big priorities.

First, any bilateral or multilateral trade agreement needs to facilitate the growth of innovative services such as cloud computing. As part of this, there should be clear rules that allow information to move securely across borders and prevent governments from mandating where servers must be located except in very specific situations.

Second, to promote innovation and foreign investment, continued intellectual property protection is vital and the use of voluntary, market-led technology standards – instead of country-specific criteria that force firms to jump through different technical hoops every time they enter a new local market – should be encouraged.

Third, all governments should ensure there are level playing fields for all competitors so customers have access to the best products and services the world has to offer.

At the same time, disclosures about government surveillance programmes in the US and other countries have sparked a renewed focus on data protection and personal privacy. Those concerns are worthy of debate and careful reform. But it is critically important not to conflate separate issues: We can’t let national security concerns derail digital trade.

There is precedent for navigating periods of change such as this in the global trade arena. Policymakers stood at a similar inflection point in the 1980s when they recognised the keys to growth in the coming decades would be intellectual property, services and foreign direct investment.

With foresight and hard work, they updated trade rules in the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations to ensure commitments were in place to provide a check against protectionist impulses. Now, as governments pursue robust growth agendas for the digital economy, it is critical we modernise trade rules again. Source: The Software Alliance (South Africa).

Delegates attending the WCO/SACU IT Connectivity Conference - May 2013

Delegates attending the WCO/SACU IT Connectivity Conference – May 2013

Representatives of the SACU member states recently met in Johannesburg to progress developments concerning IT Connectivity and Customs-to-Customs data exchange in the region. The session served as a follow up to the session held last year in February 2012 in Pretoria. The conference was convened by the SACU secretariat under the sponsorship of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and was once again pleased to have SP Sahu, senior technical expert from the World Customs Organisation, to facilitate the work session over 3 days. Representatives of UNCTAD ASYCUDA were also in attendance to observe developments. UNCTAD currently supports three (soon to be four) of the five SACU Customs administrations. The session provided an opportunity for delegates to progress this work as well as develop a terms of reference for an independent assessment of the two connectivity pilot projects that are currently being pursued between Botswana-Namibia and South Africa-Swaziland, respectively.

IT Connectivity serves as a catalyst for various customs-to-customs cooperation initiatives seeking to bring about a seamless end-to-end flow of information between point of departure and destination. Some examples include export/transit data exchange, approved economic operator, commercial fraud, eATA and at least 5 other key areas of customs mutual exchange.  The concept is driven out of the newly establish WCO model known as Globally Networked Customs (GNC). GNC was formally adopted by the WCO Council in June 2012 where a capacity building approach based on protocols, standards and guidelines (PSG) using utility blocks was recognised to provide the most realistic means to achieve efficiency gains, and a more effective way to manage the negotiation of international agreements between customs administrations.

There exist several pilot projects across the globe wherein customs agreements are being piloted under the GNC approach. Development of a Utility Block and supporting data clusters for interconnectivity within SACU and the broader Southern Africa sub-region already commenced at last year’s session. The concept gained sufficient traction and was soon adopted by both SACU and SADC  member states as the means to implementing IT connectivity within the respective regions.

A review of the Utility Block and data clusters was conducted to ensure alignment of customs data requirements across the member states. The resulting product now provides a standard ‘data set’ which members agree as the minimum data required to facilitate data exchange and advance risk management needs. It covers export and transit declaration requirements. Two important criteria exist for successful data exchange and data matching. The first being the availability of appropriate legal provision for two countries to exchange data. The second requires the use of an agreed unique identifier. The identifier is important for Customs as well as the trade community.

Delegates were also presented with current and future developments occurring at the WCO, in particular the on-going work being done to formalise standards for the “My Information Package” concept as well as the WCO Data Model, currently at version 3.3. Another interesting on-going development involves a unique Trader ID.  

Member states involved in respective pilot programmes are now preparing themselves for an up-coming evaluation, later this year.

Picture credit - Gismag.com

Picture credit – Gizmag.com

First came news from The Guardian that the NSA was collecting phone records from millions of Verizon customers under a top-secret government order:  “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top-secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”

Then, in the last few hours, more layers were peeled back by The Washington Post:  “The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.”

The story continues to list the companies who allegedly gave the US government unfettered access to customer data (emphasis is ours): “Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: ‘Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

According to a series of alleged PowerPoint slides obtained by The Washington Post, Microsoft was the first to join the program, in September of 2007. The most recent addition was Apple, in October of 2012. Dropbox is reportedly “coming soon.”

Interestingly, most of the companies named are responding to requests for comment by flat-out denying awareness or involvement. According to The Next Web, Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and Yahoo have all denied participation. PRISM reportedly began collecting data in 2007, which means it was introduced under President Bush. However, The Washington Post says the program has experienced “exponential growth” under the Obama administration.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

The slides reveal an annual budget of US$20 million for the program with data monitored by the program including e-mails, instant messages, videos, photos, stored data (presumably in the cloud), voice chats, file transfers, video conferences, log-in times, and social network profile details. Although the program is supposedly aimed at surveillance of foreign targets, such as spies and terrorists, and is intended to take advantage of the fact that most of the world’s data flows through the US, it is inevitable that data of US citizens is caught up in the mix. The NSA Powerpoint slides describe this as “incidental.”

It shouldn’t be too shocking that the US government spies on its citizens. What may be more surprising is just how far-reaching, and possibly unconstitutional, this program is. Perhaps the most significant part will be the fallout now that the secrets are out in the open.

Recent developments concerning customs data exchange via “cloud-type” mediums will therefore come under more scrutiny given current revelations in the US. It serves little purpose for countries to agree on data confidentiality and unwittingly (?) make such data available for ‘harvesting’ via third-party technology providers. Let this come as a fore-warning to governments.

Sources: The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Next Web, and Gizmag.

Guilherma Mambo presenting the Mozambique Single Electronic Window at the SADC ICT Conference, in Mauritius, 2012.

Guilherma Mambo presenting the Mozambique Single Electronic Window at the SADC ICT Conference, in Mauritius, 2012.

Guilherme Mambo has just been appointed Director General Mozambique Customs on the 10th May 2013. Until then he was Board Director of MCNet – Mozambique Community Network the PPP responsibly for implementation of Electronic Single Window for customs clearance in Mozambique where he were responsible for implementation and operations. In recent months he has lead Mozambique’s bi-lateral engagement on IT-Connectivity and Data Exchange with his counterparts at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

For the past 10 years Mambo served as director IT Mozambique Customs and then for Mozambique Revenue Authority. On this role he participated in various modernization projects aimed at improving the business environment in Mozambique through improvement of public services particularly the complete organizational transformation of customs and internal tax areas.

Prior to working with customs and MRA, he worked in aviation industry and a UN lead project in Chechnya, Liberia, Angola were he was exposed multifaceted international experience.

As Director General – Mozambique Customs his responsibility is to manage the General Directorate of Customs (DGA) a paramilitary organization with around 2000 staff, one of the two major collectors of government revenue derived from external trade largely from customs duty, excise duty and the Value Added Tax (IVA).  DGA is also a law enforcement agency that undertakes the control of imports and exports for the protection of revenue to prevent evasion of duties and taxes and assists in the promotion of the community’s well-being to prevent the smuggling of controlled, prohibited and restricted goods (such as illicit narcotic drugs and firearms). The Director General heads the DGA and his assisted by three Deputy Director General each of one have a specific area of responsibility.

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

GS1 is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and implementation of global specifications to manage the supply chain, including product identification codes, barcodes and business-to-business standards for the exchange of accurate data. After longstanding cooperation at the technical level, the WCO concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with GS1 in 2007 to formalize cooperative ties.

At the invitation of GS1, the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, spoke at the GS1 Global Forum 2013 in Brussels on 18 February 2013 where he highlighted the increasing cooperation between the two organizations. Recalling the evolution of Customs with a heightened focus on data management for assessing risks in the supply chain, the Secretary General underlined the importance for Customs to explore the possibility of making use of supply chain specifications that are available in the trade, such as codes and specifications developed by GS1.

He specifically referred to the new WCO Economic Competitiveness Package to explain how Customs contributes to enhancing national competitiveness by facilitating trade using a risk management approach. As this requires the application of information technology, data and message standards, and consignment identifiers, it is important to employ existing technologies and tools in the trade supply chain, through a partnership with business.

Sharing a common interest in supply chain management, including track and trace systems, both organizations have been cooperating in many areas in a complementary manner, as the WCO facilitates Customs-to-Customs and Customs-to- business data exchange while GS1 also facilitates business-to-business data exchange.

Areas of cooperation between the two organizations include the work at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) on standardization and specifications for supply chain management, the work on the Unique Consignment Reference Number (UCR) and the use of GS1 data for Customs risk assessment purposes.

The most recent collaboration includes the addition of a barcode function to the Interface Public Members (IPM) – the WCO’s information tool to fight violations of intellectual property rights at borders. Secretary General Mikuriya urged GS1 members to leverage the collaboration with the WCO at the global level by getting in touch with their respective local Customs administrations. GS1 members appreciated his speech and pledged to explore and enhance cooperation with Customs administrations. Source: WCO

For more of the latest news and happenings at the WCO, please follow the news feed alongside (right).

500px-Emblem_of_the_African_Union_svgThe African Union (AU) Technical Working Group on Interconnectivity has developed a ‘draft’ Strategy and Roadmap for Customs-2-Customs IT Connectivity on the continent. This strategy will effectively guide the process of the continental Interconnectivity of Computerized Customs Clearance and Information Systems in Africa. The ‘draft’ Roadmap envisages that the process of interconnectivity will take a period of 11 years with a total of four stages.

Stage 1 – by 2014, National states should have engaged one another (within their respective regions) on the matter of Customs connectivity.

Stage 2 – between 2013 and 2017, the AU has an extremely ambitious expectation that national Customs Administrations would have (at least commenced) if not completed Customs ‘connectivity’ within the various Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa.

Stage 3 – between 2017 and 2020, the suggestion that Customs interconnectivity will be occurring between RECs across the African continent – North Africa: AMU; West Africa: ECOWAS and UEMOA; Central Africa: ECCAS and CEMAC; East Africa: COMESA, EAC, IGAD; and South Africa: SADC and SACU.

Stage 4 – between 2020 and 2025, consolidation of Customs IT-Connectivity across the RECs.

The ‘draft’ Strategy spells out the strategic objectives and activities at the national, regional and continental level that will need to be taken for this to be realized. The strategy also indicates the roles of all the major stake holders in the process.  This comes in the wake of several regional and bi-lateral initiatives to bridge the ‘cross-border divide’ through electronic exchange of structured customs information.

All in all an ambitious plan structured to meet the equally ambitious deadlines of the coming into being of an African Union. The real challenge in all of this lies with the Member States in being able to set aside and commit to regional and continental ambitions, over and above the already pressing and complex national agenda’s of their respective sovereign countries. In context of the African Union, the multiplicity of RECs in themselves add a layer of duplication…..is an “integrated Customs Union” in Africa going to continue to permit the existence of the respective RECs or will they be absorbed into the African Union? Member states need to begin speaking up on this issue otherwise accept being swamped by onerous commitments. No doubt the ‘international donor agencies’ wait eagerly in the wings to capitalise on Africa’s deficiencies.

TKCThe first live demonstration of an end-to-end customs connectivity solution was successfully completed in Windhoek, Namibia on December 12, 2012. Customs Connectivity enables customs administrations from different countries to share information seamlessly and instantly across borders: reducing processing time and improving access to reliable, real-time trade statistics.

The demonstration was witnessed by the Commissioners of Botswana (BURS) and Namibia Customs (NRA), senior managers and operational teams. The demonstration involved moving information from an ASYCUDA++ entry in Botswana via the Cloud-based User Portal to an ASYCUDA++ entry in Namibia, and vice-versa from Namibia to Botswana. It demonstrated how clearing agents/traders would manage the flow of their information via the secure online User Portal.

The demonstration marked a “watershed moment” in turning Customs Connectivity into reality. The next steps for the pilot project include full system testing and documentation before end-user training commences. Full implementation is scheduled to take place during the first half of 2013.

Customs Connectivity offers countries in the region a historic opportunity to engage cutting-edge technology and modern tools to facilitate trade throughout Southern Africa, enhancing economic growth and promoting food security. The pilot project is being implemented by Botswana and Namibia, supported by the USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub. Source: SATH

Request – Perhaps some of the TKC clearing agents, NRA and BURS customs staff would like to comment on their experience thus far? 

2012 in review

December 31, 2012 — Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for “What Happened to the Portcullis?“. A special thanks to everyone who has browsed regularly, commented or contributed to this blog. I am deeply grateful and appreciative! Mike

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 52,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 12 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.