Perspectives from Africa,
engagement from Finland

Understanding Africa

Representing Africans


Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

A coordinated approach to customs issues

Kenyans and Namibians met in Finland recently for insights into customs administration. In late May 2013, Finland hosted the first site visit of the Co-ordinated Border Management (CBM) within the World Customs Organization’s ESA project Building Trade Capacity through Customs Modernization in the East and Southern Africa Region.

This regional project is funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The participants from Kenya and Namibia had the opportunity to witness and understand how agencies can coordinate their operations efficiently and effectively through a joint allocation of tasks and duties. Also, the aim was to understand customs functions and procedures and vice versa gave an insight to the officers from customs administrations on the necessary service levels required to meet trade facilitation objectives.Participants at the first site visit of the Co-ordinated Border Management (CBM) - with Maritta Haapasalmi, Head of Helsinki Customs at Vuosaari Port (Photo: Helsinki Customs)

The delegation comprised a number of governmental and private sector senior officials from both countries.

Kenya was represented by the Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Customs Services Department, Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade), Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA), and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. The Namibian delegation was formed of officials from Customs and Excise of Namibia, Namibia Immigration and Ministry of Home Affairs, Namibia Police, Namibia Animal Health, Namibia Roads Authority and Namibia Road Fund Administration.

During the visit, the delegation met with officials from the Finnish Customs, with whom the group undertook two site visits - at the Vuosaari Port and Nuijamaa land border. The delegates were also provided with excellent case studies of a successful cooperation between government agencies at border entry points.

Developing sustainable security management

The visit was arranged by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Finnish Customs while the Customs Administrations of Kenya and Namibia coordinated the successful selection of participants. The three-day site visit challenged participants to (re)consider and at the same time enlightened them on what is possible when agencies work together towards common objectives. Although Finland has adopted a coordinated approach towards border management for more than 80 years with only border guards and customs at the borders, participants hoped that the site visit will contribute to some action towards eventually reducing the number of government agencies at the borders of the two visiting countries. All participants expressed their intention to spread the information of what they have learnt on CBM in their respective agencies.

The WCO is the only intergovernmental institutional body exclusively focused on customs matters. With its worldwide membership, the WCO is now acknowledged as the voice of the global Customs community. One of the objectives of the WCO is capacity building, training and technical assistance and integrity programmes to increase the capacity of Member administrations to contribute effectively to national development goals.

The ESA project - 'Building Trade Capacity through Customs Modernization in the East and Southern Africa Region' - runs from 2011 until 2014 with Finland funding it with 4.5 million Euros. The aim of the project is to enhance the efficiency, good governance and capacity of customs in 24 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa - and thus to support poverty reduction, promote sustainable economic development and improve the general state of security. The project is implemented by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), whose East and Southern Africa Regional Office for Capacity Building is in Nairobi.