President Yoweri Museveni has said that the African continent can no longer be a spectator in the global industrial and technological revolutions. He says that Africa has solved many of the bottlenecks that dragged it back as the rest of the world industrialized, and that it is now ready to be an equal player in global trade.
The President made the remarks on Wednesday while he officiated at the opening ceremony of the 4th World Customs Organization (WCO) Global AEO Conference at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
The three day conference, the first to be held in Africa seeks to discuss the role of Authorized Economic Operators (AEOs) in facilitating global trade and security as prerequisites for economic development.
Museveni noted that while Africa is bigger in size than most of the developed economies combined, it had for long been sidelined in the global economy due to challenges like slave trade, poor leadership and disunity among different countries.
However, he said that Africa has now woken up and is ready to catch up.
“Most of the problems we suffered were partly because of our internal weaknesses. We are trying to solve the issue of unity through regional integration,” Museveni said.
He further explained that the rising population in Africa is yet another silver lining aa the continent positions itself as the next frontier for industrialization.
“Under population has also been our problem, but we are sorting it out, especially with the discovery of modern medicines to counter killer diseases. By 2050, Africa will have over 2.5 billion people. We shall have caught up with other big economies,” he said.
He added; “We are going into the industrial age and digital revolution, and this time we shall be part of global trade on equal terms with the rest”.
Over 1,000 delegates from over 169 countries across the globe including customs administrators, business firms, government officials, academia and policy makers are attending the biannual capacity builing conference which is themed on “Promoting mutual recognition of AEOs to strengthen and secure global trade”.
The Secretary General of the World Customs Organization, Kunio Mikuriya who spoke to journalists before the official opening ceremony noted that Africa possesses a huge potential in regards to economic growth.
“African leaders have been formulating policies and legal frameworks to facilitate trade, but customs authorities and businesses should work jointly to improve the economic competitiveness of the respective countries, regional blocs and Africa,” Mikuriya said.
He said that the ongoing event is resourceful for Africa to borrow success stories from the AEO business model and for customs administrators as well as business from all over the world to explore ways to leverage the underlying opportunities that exist on the continent.
The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General, Doris Akol said that the conference is a key platform for all players in international trade to share best practices in the different customs jurisdictions.
“Alongside the conference, we shall exhibit a number of customs initiatives such as the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System, Single Customs Territory, Electronic Single Window,” Akol said.
Uganda has a total of 51 companies registered as AEOs and these according to URA account for 28% of all the tax revenue generated.