Back in 2014, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat and five Customs administrations from the EAC region (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) embarked on a five-year partnership to support the effective design and roll-out of the EAC Regional AEO Programme. The partnership came to be known as the WCO-EAC CREATe Project and benefitted from the generous financial support of the Government of Sweden.
On 21 and 22 November 2018, the EAC Secretariat played hosted the WCO and the above-mentioned five EAC Customs administrations in Arusha (Tanzania), in order to reflect on the achievements, challenges and lessons learned with respect to the EAC Regional AEO Programme. Over the past five years and through the delivery of nearly 100 activities (including 86 on-site activities), the WCO-EAC CREATe Project has successfully supported the EAC region in establishing a robust and globally recognized Regional AEO Programme aligned with the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards.
To date, 82 companies have joined the EAC Regional AEO Programme and they account for nearly 9% of regional trade, translating into more than 1.5 billion USD per year in volume of trade and a Customs revenue contribution of approximately 10%. The Regional AEO Programme has led to significant time and cost reductions for AEOs which have contributed to job creation, in some cases, as well as to improved Customs-Business relations. By way of example, Mr. Mugwe, Chief Executive Officer of Farmers Choice Limited in Kenya, has reported that “since joining the Programme, our brand is seen as credible and trustworthy. Priority clearance has also led to a 30% reduction in our costs. These savings have allowed us to open new lines of business and subsidiary companies, with an increase in our staffing numbers from 1,300 to 2,009”. Similarly, Bakhresa, a Tanzanian transport company, has made annual savings of USD 1.8 million since joining the Programme, while Brarudi, a Burundi beverage producer, has saved USD 350,000 per year since becoming part of the Programme.
The Customs Commissioners of the EAC region and the EAC Secretariat commended the WCO Secretariat for this partnership, noting that the achievements recorded during the last five years provide solid foundations for the growth and development of the EAC Regional AEO Programme. In particular, the region will work to further involve all Cross-Border Regulatory Agencies (CBRAs) in the Programme, as well as to provide adequate guidance on and support with the AEO Programme to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
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