Managing risk in the context of electronic commerce: Spotlight on Burkina Faso Customs

25 June 2024
By Burkina Faso Customs

The WCO defines cross-border electronic commerce (E-Commerce) as “all transactions which are effected digitally through a computer network (e.g. the internet) and result in physical goods flows subject to Customs formalities”.[1] Like many other Customs administrations, when talking about cross‑border E-Commerce shipments, Burkina Faso Customs is referring to shipments which are transported by the national postal operator and express courier services. This article introduces its mechanism for monitoring this type of trade flow.

Electronic data

Customs duties and taxes are levied on imported parcels, except where the value of the consignment is below 100 US dollars (this de minimis threshold implemented in Burkina Faso is based on the Pathfinder to Enhance Supply Chain Connectivity by Establishing a Baseline De Minimis Value which was adopted in 2011 by the leaders of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation). However, importers frequently reduce the value of the goods so that they fall below that threshold, and the goods are then sold, often at exorbitant prices, on the domestic market. This practice is common, in particular, with imports of mobile telephones and cosmetics.

In order to tackle illicit trafficking and undervaluation, Burkina Faso Customs has set up Postal Customs Control offices in Ouagadougou and Bobo‑Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city. These offices oversee risk management operations and receive electronic data on shipments from La Poste Burkina Faso (“BF Post”)[2] and from express courier companies operating in the national territory (mainly DHL, CHRONOPOST, FEDEX, SAGA and UPS).

Since 2017, the express courier operators have been forwarding – both electronically and in paper format – the lists of the parcels for delivery in Burkina Faso before their arrival or departure, and they are responsible for completing the Customs formalities on behalf of their customers.

Data has been shared with BF Post, the public operator of the postal service, since 2015 by means of the electronic Customs Declaration System (CDS), which was developed by the UPU’s Postal Technology Centre (PTC) on the basis of the WCO-UPU EDI messaging system for Customs administrations and postal operators. The CDS enables postal operators connected to the platform to exchange information on parcel shipments before interacting with the Customs authorities. The Customs administration then analyses the risks in the light of the information supplied by the system’s designated foreign postal operators. The CDS uses two types of electronic message: the first replaces the documents used for the Customs declaration and the second, which is returned by Customs, states whether or not a parcel must be kept back for inspection. That message may also include other data, such as the amount of duty and tax to be paid by the sender, in accordance with a specific agreement concluded between the designated operator and Customs. Accordingly, BF Post can recover the Customs duties and taxes and remit them to the State of Burkina Faso; otherwise, the recipients themselves take care of completing the Customs formalities at the relevant Postal Customs Control office.

Customs authorities have the option of using the CDS directly or interfacing it with their own system for risk assessment and payment of Customs duties and taxes. In Burkina Faso, Postal Customs Control officers have access to the CDS, which is hosted by BF Post. They can therefore use the system to consult data and have recourse to the system’s many functions which include:

  • user management;
  • management of decisions;
  • the detailed search report on the Harmonized System (HS) governing tariff classification;
  • management of Customs duties and taxes;
  • declarations search.

Whether they originate from BF Post or from express shipment companies, the data on parcels is available prior to their arrival and departure, and Customs is committed to communicating its decision in advance.

Postal Customs Control officers may:

  • authorize the shipment or delivery;
  • deny authorization of the shipment or delivery;
  • require presentation of the parcel at the Customs office; and
  • withhold the parcel where fraud is suspected.
© Burkina Faso Customs
© Burkina Faso Customs


Burkina Faso Customs relies on the following risk indicators for profiling and targeting purposes:

  • vague description of the goods;
  • “ghost” hosting sites for the transaction;
  • low value of the declared goods;
  • country of origin deemed to be a high-risk country;
  • nature and quality of the accompanying documents;
  • route taken by the shipment (illogical route);
  • quality of the (unknown) supplier.
© Burkina Faso Customs
© Burkina Faso Customs

If fraud is suspected, the documents accompanying the shipment are examined and a physical check of the parcels may be carried out. Once the parcel is passed to Postal Customs Control, Customs conducts a visual examination of the packaging, including the labelling and any other indications on the parcel, in order to identify those parcels which may contain goods subject to import and/or export bans, or subject to entry restrictions or formalities.

As pointed out in the summary table (Table I) of shipments managed by BF Post and DHL both on entry to and departure from the territory, over the 2017-2023 period, BF Post and its subsidiary CHRONOPOST[1] transported fewer parcels (192,764) than DHL (205,187), the former transporting 48% of all parcels while the latter transported 52%.

Table I: Summary of shipments entering and leaving the territory between 2017 and 2023

As regards Customs infringements, there have been established cases of goods being exported and imported without the necessary Customs declarations. Inspections have resulted in seizures of bank cards (125,800 units), methamphetamine (178,698 kg), Khat (162 kg), cocaine (0.348 kg), IT equipment, cosmetic products (0.280 kg), a memory card with industrial printer accessories and a phoropter (Table II). It should be noted that no intellectual property rights infringements were identified during this period.

Table II: Seizures carried out in the Postal Customs Control offices 2019-2023

Efforts to tackle commercial fraud and collect Customs duties and taxes have been boosted since 2015 as a result of the computerization of the Postal Customs Control offices in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso in conjunction with the rollout of data sharing between postal operators and Customs. Revenue consequently increased by 187.21% between 2015 and 2016. However, subsequent recoveries experienced an up-and-down variation in their trend direction up to 2023, which translated into an average rate of increase of 40.39% over the 2015-2023 period, with the Postal Customs Control office in Ouagadougou taking the lead on recoveries.

The following graph shows the trend in recoveries of Customs duties and taxes by the two Postal Customs Control offices.

Graph: Trend in recoveries by the Postal Customs Control offices


Table III: Recovery of Customs duties and taxes by the Postal Customs Control offices (in CFA francs) Source: Customs Accounting Directorate/Directorate General of Customs


Cooperation with BF Post and the express courier companies was formalized upon the signing of an Agreement[4] for the former partner and a memorandum of understanding for the latter partners. These different agreements were signed with a view to simplifying, facilitating and harmonizing the Customs formalities applying to parcels, and to facilitate effective Customs checks on parcels on import and export alike. They provide for the sharing of electronic data before, during and following any shipment or receipt of consignments, in addition to collaborative measures for facilitating Customs checks in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, counterfeiting and piracy, and any form of illicit trade.

To establish a good partnership, Burkina Faso Customs is committed to enhancing the capacity of postal officials and express consignment companies to recognize those shipments that are likely to contain illicit goods, and to supplying information on illicit trafficking trends to its partners.

This cooperation could be more effective if advantages such as removal credits[5] and direct delivery authorizations were granted to those partners on the basis of contractual terms and subject to payment of a bank guarantee. Cooperation could be eased further through the introduction of a simplified Customs clearance procedure under which operators and importers could dispose of their goods immediately by filing a simplified Customs declaration that requires a minimum of information and submit any additional documents at a later stage. That simplified procedure could take the Authorized Economic Operator Programme as its basis, laying down the following criteria for completion of the Customs formalities: having committed no serious offences (for example, drug trafficking) nor repeated infringements of the Customs legislation, and establishing effective internal procedures in support of Customs control.

Finally, in order to tackle commercial fraud more effectively, Burkina Faso Customs could follow in the footsteps of other Customs administrations and have recourse to the models applied by sellers for the recovery of duties and taxes.

More information

Boukary Dianda, Director, Courier products and parcels,

Sulvint Compaore

[1] Tools supporting the implementation of the Framework, Definitions,

[2] BF Post was established by Decrees No. 97-209/PRES/PM/MCC/MCIA and No. 97-210/PRES/PM/MCC/MCIA of 28 April 1997.

[3] Chronopost is a subsidiary of BF Post and is responsible for international express post.

[4] This Agreement is currently under review for updating purposes and in order to incorporate interfacing between the CDS and ASYCUDAWorld.

[5] Payment facility allowing importers to remove their goods from Customs before paying the relevant duties and taxes.