Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and the European Union (EU) have joined forces to set up a continental digital platform to handle information on applicable tariff rates covering all African countries.
This was one of the issues discussed by representatives of the WCO, the AfCFTA Secretariat and the EC during a virtual meeting to review the state of play in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), last week.
Mrs. Demitta Chinwude Gyang, Head of Customs at the AfCFTA Secretariat, expressed her appreciation for the support provided by the WCO and the EU on the implementation of the Harmonized System (HS) under the EU-WCO Programme for HS in Africa (HS-Africa Programme), funded by the EU.
Gyang emphasised that the trade under the AfCFTA had already started from January 2021, and 44 tariff offers had been submitted by AfCFTA signatories already, explaining that the AfCFTA Secretariat intended to create a web-based ‘tariff book’ whereby all the necessary information on tariff offers and applicable tariff rates would be made available in a user-friendly and easily accessible manner.
The representatives of the WCO and the EU welcomed the AfCFTA initiative to set up a digital tariff platform at the continental level, recalling that electronic tariffs had been successfully implemented in some African countries in the recent past, with the support of the HS-Africa Programme.
They stressed that such digital tools contributed significantly to trade facilitation efforts of Customs administrations and Regional Economic Communities by providing data that were vital for trade operators. The EU and the WCO reiterated their firm commitment to offering continued support to the AfCFTA in that regard, under the HS-Africa Programme.
In conclusion, the meeting participants agreed that the initiative should start by developing terms of reference for the implementation of the AfCFTA digital ‘tariff book’ and launching a tendering process to select a service provider that would carry out the required technical work. It was felt that this project would contribute to scaling up the digital transformation of Customs, announced as the theme of the year 2022, and create a foundation for the next steps in the establishment of the Customs union on the African continent.