SACU adopts a safety, security and compliance supply chain programme

Martin Endjala

The Southern African Customs Union have adopted the implementation of the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Programme to strengthen compliance, safety, and security within the supply chain, and to address inefficiencies amongst customs and other government agencies.

The programme is a Voluntary Accreditation Programme designed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) as a global standard used by Customs Administrations, other government agencies, and private sectors to strengthen compliance, safety, and security of the supply chain, whilst also building mutual trust and partnerships between government and businesses.

During the official opening of a breakfast workshop organised by the Namibia Revenue Agency (NamRA) and the Private Sector the Minister of Trade and Industrialization Lucia Iipumbu said: “The programme is based on the WCO safe framework of Standards that enables integrated and harmonised supply chain management for all modes of transport. Globally there are more than 80 AEO Programmes that are operational, and more are developed annually.”

Iipumbu said that increased global trade and the dynamics in the international supply chain have created new demands on the role of Customs Administrations and Other Government Agencies (OGAs) in trade facilitation.

In this environment she said, the business community endeavours to move goods faster, at a reduced cost to maintain their competitiveness, adding that Customs Administrations and Other Government

“Agencies are expected to improve the processing of an increased number of cargos with a lesser reliance on physical intervention and with greater efficiency and speed. This can only be done without compromising the safety and security, revenue collection, and enforcement responsibilities. To achieve these objectives, it is therefore critical for Customs Administrations, Other Government Agencies and Businesses to collaborate and establish mutually beneficial partnerships,” she said.

In Customs Union, the Authorised Economic Operator is said to be a flagship programme for the Customs Modernization Programme under the SACU Trade Facilitation and Logistics Programme.

Iipumbu said the programme will improve administrative efficiencies through digitisation, as well as automation of data exchange, reduction of time and cost associated with cross-border trade; improved compliance and security of the supply chain and enhanced competitiveness of the SACU Member States.

She also emphasized the critical importance Customs Union region has embarked on in the vital exercise to promote the visibility and use of the Authorised Economic Operator Programme by businesses, and Namibian Businesses, encouraging them to actively participate in this great opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Customs Union Executive Secretary Thabo David Khasipe noted with concern that globally, most economies are still recovering from one of the most disruptive and worst pandemics of the 21st Century due to COVID-19, notably, Khasipe said the pandemic has resulted in major challenges for governments, businesses and the public at large, such as record levels of global debt; lower economic growth forecasts; high prices for traded goods; and increasing interest rates.

On a positive note, the Executive Secretary COVID-19 Pandemic resulted in some improvements in logistics as governments, and businesses, such as shipping companies have to enhance ports management, procedures for the facilitation of trade, and repurposing to be able to operate during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It further highlighted the interdependencies and linkages of the global logistics networks and supply chains. It also brought to focus the fact that the supply chain can be as strong as its weakest link.

“This experience has taught us, globally to identify the logistics and supply chain challenges and to work on common solutions,” Khasipe said.

The Customs Union region has prioritised Trade Facilitation and Logistics as a key component of its Strategic Plan, with a focus on Industrialisation as the overarching objective for SACU underpinned by the development of regional value chains, export and investment promotion as well as the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

As of the 23rd of March 2023, all SACU Member States have established and are implementing their respective Authorised Economic Operator Compliance Programmes using the minimum standards and criteria, and procedure manuals developed at a regional level.

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