The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency this week donated $5.5 million to a World Customs Organization (WCO) initiative in East Africa aimed at enhancing customs trade compliance projects over the next three years.
The additional funding will help build customs compliance capacity in the East African Community (EAC), a regional intergovernmental organization comprised of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Together, the five countries make up a trading bloc of 153 million people with a GDP of almost $300 billion.
Among other things, the EAC is a customs union with duty free trade between member states, common tariffs on imports from third countries and common customs procedures. At least in theory, that is; although in reality, the arrangement is more of a work in progress short of full implementation, with technical assistance and further development still needed to harmonize and modernize customs procedures in the EAC’s major ports of entry.
The primary focus of the WCO investment is supporting the EAC’s customs administration with roll-out of a new Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) program to stakeholders across the region. Under this initiative, compliant traders that qualify will be able to benefit from preferential treatment, expedited cargo release, and mutual recognition with other comparable programs around the world such as the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT).
The AEO concept is one of the main building blocks within the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards.