Uganda to Host Africa’s First Global Customs Conference

URA's Commissioner for Customs, Dickson Kateshumbwa speaking at the press launch. Left is UTB's Stephen Asiimwe

Uganda has begun preparations as it readies to become the first African country to host the World Customs Organization (WCO) conference next month. The high level global conference will bring together over 800 delegates from a total of 169 countries across the world.

The 4th WCO Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) conference will last two days, March 14 to 16 at Kampala Serena Hotel, URA has revealed.

Uganda which is a member of WCO was selected to host the forum following a highly competitive pitching process that included advanced cities like Dubai. This was largely attributed to the significant policies, procedures and initiatives that Uganda Revenue Authority has undertaken over the recent years to effectively facilitate global trade.

The first global AEO conference was held in Seoul (Korea) while the second took place in Madrid (Spain) and the recent one was in Cancun (Mexico).

The biannual meeting attracts all registered Authorized Economic Operators (businesses that are recognized and granted preferential status by revenue bodies for their consistent tax compliance).

Partnership between revenue collection bodies and AEOs in the different jurisdictions follows the events of 2010 terror attacks in USA which changed dynamics in customs administration. This introduced a new system where customs authorities relinquished part of their safety control roles to businesses whose compliance had been certified.

According to Dickson Kateshumbwa, the Commissioner for Customs at URA, a total of seventy seven (77) countries have since adopted AEO programs but Uganda has the highest number of mature programs on the African continent.

There are over 50 companies wih registered AEO status in Uganda.

The forthcoming conference that boasts the largest number of workshops will showcase programmes that have been implemented across the globe in addition to discussion on various trade issues.

Participants will also share ideas on global supply chain security as well as how AEOs can enhance compliance and improve revenue collection.

Delegates include customs administrators, government officials, policy makers, private businesses, experts in global trade as well as legal and academic representatives.

With such a magnitude of close to a thousand international delegates in the country, Uganda will be looking to tap into this event to exhibit and sell its vast tourism potential.

Stephen Asiimwe, the Executive Director of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) who attended the press launch for the highly anticipated event said the WCO conference is a big opportunity for Uganda as a tourism destination.

“We want conference participants to enjoy Uganda before, during and after the event. We have organized excursion trips for them to our national parks, historical and cultural sites, Kampala city and other attractions,” Asiimwe said.

“Delegates from 169 counties is a record. The representation is even bigger than CHOGM. We foresee a huge spend during this time,” he added.

Tourism is Uganda’s biggest foreign revenue earner. And according to Asiimwe, 12% of the total revenue generated from the tourism sector comes from Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) activities in Uganda.

He said that offering delegates a memorable experience in Uganda creates a high ripple effect resulting from the recommendations made to other potential visitors.

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