Customs Administrations of SADC Countries are taking Pro-active lead on Customs Systems Interconnectivity and Data Exchange
Customs data plays a key role in supporting the operational efficiency of Customs administrations through effective management of Customs risks and improved facilitation in the clearance of legitimate trade. In recent times, some WCO member countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had taken initiatives to work towards the interconnectivity of their Customs systems to enable exchange of Customs data and to leverage opportunities for mutual cooperation, improved data integrity and quality and systems interoperability. To this end, the WCO conducted a two-day virtual sub-regional workshop on Customs IT Systems Interconnectivity on 13 and 14 December 2021, under the Sida-WCO Trade Facilitation and Customs Modernization Programme with financial support from the Government of Sweden, to support the interconnectivity initiatives undertaken by the Customs administrations of Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This highly interactive workshop allowed discussions on the several ongoing bilateral data exchange projects between the countries, with a view to assessing their alignments with the WCO instruments and tools, notably, the Globally Networked Customs (GNC), WCO Data Model, and the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR). This enabled 65 participants from the five beneficiary Customs administrations, with wide-ranging responsibilities in IT function, systems developers, risk management, post clearance audit, customs operations, project management, and legal experts, to have gained better understanding of the standards and tools applicable for Customs data exchange. The members reiterated the strategic importance of Customs systems interconnectivity in their business plans and performance targets, and also shared the experiences and challenges of implementing the Customs systems interconnectivity, as well as support needed to address the challenges.
Based on progress reports from Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe on the bilateral data exchange projects, and the practical success experience shared by Eswatini on pursuing data exchange with South Africa, using the WCO GNC and UCR standards, the workshop participants were unanimous in recommending for a standardized and harmonized regional approach to exchange of Customs data and systems interconnectivity. This resolution complements the SADC region’s objective to develop a regional framework for Customs systems interconnectivity, which is a priority for the SADC Secretariat, and a component being supported by the Sida-WCO Trade Facilitation and Customs Modernization Programme. The standard will ensure uniform application of WCO standards in the region and increase interoperability of Customs systems between members. The WCO, in that regard, will provide further support in 2022 for the Members’ capacity development in the application of the WCO data model, GNC and UCR, and the development of regional frameworks.