Using data to monitor Customs modernization: the experience of the WCO West and Central Africa regionBy Bonguin Ferdinand Dezai, Principal Customs Director, Office Of The Vice-Chair Of The WCO Council For The WCA Region and Roger-Claver Victorien Gnogoue, Financial Services Director, Statistics And Economic Studies Department, Côte D’Ivoire Customs
The West and Central Africa (WCA) region is one of the six regions of the WCO. It is made up of 23 countries, including 14 that are French-speaking, five that are English-speaking, 3 that are Portuguese-speaking, and one that is bilingual (English and French). Since 2016, this region has been run by the Ivorian Customs administration, whose vision is to make the WCA region a reference region.
To implement this vision, the WCO Vice-Chair of the region has defined three strategic axes: a better organized and more dynamic region; efficient regional structures; and modern and efficient Customs administrations. One of the objectives under the last axis is to ensure the implementation of the recommendations developed during regional and international meetings in order to dynamize the modernization process of Customs administrations in the region.
To do so, a process was set up to monitor and evaluate the implementation of these recommendations, piloted by the Office of the WCO Vice-Chair. There are three components to this process: (i) data collection, (ii) data processing, and (iii) presentation of results. To collect the data, a survey is sent to the region’s 23 Customs administrations, where after the responses are then analysed.
First of all, the information provided by the countries must be verified: the Office of the WCO Vice-Chair maintains a constant dialogue with contact points in each country who are responsible for keeping them informed. Where it is difficult to assess the effective implementation of certain recommendations, the experts ask for detailed evidence. A statistical method is then selected. Finally, statistics are produced to identify trends in implementing the recommendations.
At the region’s 21st Conference of Customs Directors General, which was held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in April 2016, 24 recommendations were drawn up to improve the efficiency of the region’s Customs administrations. They fall under three main headings, as follows:
- Intelligence – 10 recommendations;
- Information and Communication Technology – 7 recommendations;
- Capacity Building – 7 recommendations.
The evaluation of the implementation of these recommendations, one year after their adoption by the region, painted the following picture.
A total of 18 Customs administrations responded to the survey carried out in 2017, which represents a 78.3% participation rate. The results reveal numerous disparities between countries in relation to the overall implementation of the 24 recommendations. Nigerian Customs has been the most diligent, having fully implemented 79.2% of the recommendations, i.e., 19 out of 24. Nigeria was followed by Togolese Customs and Senegalese Customs, which have respectively implemented 75% (18 out of 24) and 66.7% (16 out of 24) of the recommendations. Some countries have achieved only partial implementation of the recommendations, top of which is Cameroon with 83.3% (20 out of 24) of the recommendations in the process of being implemented, followed by the Central African Republic with 58.3% (14 out of 24).
The recommendations with the best follow-up rate are those related to the information and communication technology (ICT) sector: 91% (16 out of 18) of the countries that took part in the survey have fully or partially implemented the recommendations relating to ICT. The recommendation with the highest implementation rate is the one to ensure the effective participation of information technology (IT) departments in regional and international ICT activities. It has been implemented by 15 out of 18 countries (83.3%).
As for the recommendations relating to intelligence, 34% of the countries have fully implemented them (6 out of 18), whereas 22% (4 out of 18) have not even begun any initiative in this regard. The recommendation with the best follow-up is that relating to the fight against cross-border insecurity, with a rate of 72.2% (13 out of 18 countries).
Concerning capacity building, only 44% of the countries (8 out of 18) have fully implemented the recommendations, while 13% (2 out of 18) have not implemented any of the recommendations in this category. The most widely adopted recommendation is the one to involve training and human resource managers in the self-assessment exercise contained in the regional Strategic Plan, which has been implemented by 83.3% (15 out of 18 countries).
Unfortunately, there are several recommendations with a very poor follow-up rate. Only one country has effectively allocated substantial funding to fight cross-border insecurity. In addition, fewer than three countries have implemented the recommendation to strengthen border controls through the increased use of intelligence, risk management, and advanced technologies.
The results of the evaluation reveal numerous disparities between countries in the implementation of the recommendations. Customs administrations should be encouraged to share their experiences in order to gain an understanding of the obstacles that must be overcome to ensure effective implementation of the recommendations, particularly those with the worst follow-up rates. Additionally, administrations that are in need of financial support or assistance should take up contact with donors at the regional Donor Conference. They should also make use of the opportunities for assistance offered by various organizations that are working towards the effective implementation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement.