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GRA Hosts World Customs Organization’s Expert Meeting

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Participants at the opening ceremony of the World Customs Organization (WCO) West and Central Africa Region Expert Meeting.

By Landing Ceesay 

The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) is hosting the World Customs Organization (WCO) West and Central Africa Region Expert Meeting, which will bring together customs officials from across the region to discuss and share best practices on trade facilitation and customs modernization. 

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is a global intergovernmental organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It is the only intergovernmental organization that exclusively focuses on customs matters, including supply chain security, trade facilitation, and capacity building.

The theme of this year’s convergence is “Nurturing the Next Generation by Promoting a Culture of Knowledge Sharing and Professional Pride in Customs.”

In his opening remarks at the conference, Mr. Yankuba Darboe, Commissioner General of the GRA, praised the conference theme as “apt and measured,” saying that it captured the very essence of the GRA’s transformative journey.

“It cannot be gainsaid that indeed today’s world is knowledge based and technologically driven, hence the importance of promoting and emphasizing knowledge sharing and leveraging technology in line with the WCO Modernization Plan validated in 2022 by our policy commission and council, is not a mere case of supporting the next generation to sustain the legacy of Customs evolvement and innovations. But a typical case of guiding them to deal with the prejudices, uncertainties and fears characterizing the international trade and supply chain. 

“For this reason, the WCO has strongly advocated for placing human capital at the heart of the transformation of Customs, especially for the new generation. According to Gaylord Nelson, “the ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” I have been reliably informed and, as captured in our program guide, this session of experts will explore the WCO Modernization Plan and the West and Central Africa 2023 strategic plan,” Darboe said. 

The GRA Boss further stated that the Conference will also review the evaluation and implementation of the recommendation of previous conferences, and knowledge transfer across generational customs members of staff among others.

Mr. Darboe is confident that experts will give their best in deliberations by ensuring that the best outputs are realized. 

Mr. Bede Anyanwu, representative of the Vice Chair of World Customs Organization (WCO) West and Central Africa, applauded the GRA for hosting the event. 

Mr. Anyanwu said that the members of the Expert Committee of the region are here to evaluate the status of Western Central Africa, assess the job performance at all levels of governance, and recommend ways forward and guidance for the delegates who will be arriving for their conference.

“It is pertinent for this forum to develop a blueprint on the priorities of governance programs and expectations that could be presented to the incoming Secretary-General, bearing in mind that Dr. Korea has operated on the principles of inclusiveness and diversity. These directions should be in the areas that would enhance the advancement of the customs administration’s capacities to achieve the required standards for the best practices are sustained continental participation and the WCO modernization programs,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Njebi Vincent Kwalar, Regional Development Manager of WCO said even though the Gambia has given them a masterclass of how the torch of leadership should be passed on, it is widely agreed in many circles that there is a generational crisis in the professional world and that customs as an administration has not been spared. 

“Whilst we listen to the various reports that shall come from the WCO Secretariat, the Vice Chair’s Office, the Regional Office for Capacity Building or from the Regional Entities, pride of the place must be given to the above message. How have we supported our new recruits? As we consider the pillars of the draft strategic plan of the region, we must seek avenues for enshrining knowledge sharing as a mainstay of regional activity. How are we promoting a culture of knowledge sharing.? What is the state of professional pride among customs agents.?” Mr. Kwalar asked. 

Mr. Kwalar said that it is important to listen to partners and donors, as they can provide valuable insights and ideas. He also said that it is important to have open and honest discussions with people from all walks of life, as this is how strong ideas are developed. These ideas can then be shared with top management for decision-making.

“We must see in this exercise, grounds not only of curating customs knowledge, but also of its dissemination. Customs knowledge must as such flow both within and without the administration,” he said. 

The Expert Meeting is currently being held as a preparatory event for the 29th Conference of the Directors-General of Customs, which will also be held in the Gambia for the first time.

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