Continentâ€™s customs chiefs converge on Abuja to discuss trade facilitation
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, declared on TuesdayÂ that the African continent cannot remain a dumping ground for vendors of all kinds of goods under the guise of Free Trade Agreement.
The minister stated this in Abuja at an extra-ordinary meeting of Directors-General of Customs of the African Union (AU) where customs administrators around the African Union (,AU) converged with the aim of forging a new position of relevance in the world Customs Organisation.
Her words: â€œYou must be patriotic. You must be Africa-focused. We cannot continue to be the worldâ€™s largest market for anybody who wants to sell anything.
â€œSelling and buying, that is trade and we must correct some of the historical imbalances that have made our economies very vulnerable.â€.
Adeosun tasked the customs administrators to strive to strike a balance between revenue mobilisation, border production, security control, regulatory functions.
The African region, she stated remains number one in terms of illicit financial flows and charged governments in the region to do more to ensure strong customs organisationâ€™s capable of checking illicit trade and trans-border crimes.
â€œWe are number one in illicit financial flow. Money and goods flow out of our (African) countries without being taxed or assessed we are also heavily import-dependent for many of our basic goods. So we do need very strong focus on customs.
â€œI am to draw your attention to the fact that customs activities at the borders can make or break the economy. It is therefore a challenge to you to always employ interventions that would expedite the movement of trade goods across national borders in a simplified and predictable manner to enhance trade facilitation and promote economic growth in Africa,â€ the minister said.
The Comptroller-General (C-G) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), in his address, called for a common ground among African countries as they go to the World Customs Organisationâ€™s Annual Council Meeting in July.
Ali said: â€œIt is our expectation that this meeting will bring all the African Union Customs Administrations together to articulate a common agenda and speak in unison during the World Customs Organisationâ€™s Annual Council Meeting coming up in July 2017.
â€œThis meeting will afford the African continent the opportunity to occupy rightful position in the WCO within the administrative and political hierarchy and exert authority to influence policies that will be beneficial to the continent and enhance intra-African trade.â€
The Chairman for African Union Sub-Committee of Directors General of Customs, who is also the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Mr Happias Kuzvinzwa, pointed out that Africa had the least share of world trade and must consciously world to expand her space in global trade.
Kuzvinzwa called for the elimination of every form of red tape that hinders intra-African trade to increase trade between African countries, from where the region could extend its share of global trade to other regions.
He also advised African countries to work as a team in order to have a stronger voice while negotiating Free Trade Agreements, usually promoted by the World Trade Organisation.