#Article (Archive)

It’s time to remove trade barriers!

Mar 3, 2020, 1:19 PM

The free movement of people, goods and services are critical cornerstone in any development crusade. Africa is gifted with an abundance of natural and energy resources, outstanding geographical locations, as well as many ports that facilitate access to and within our African countries. Our region is also endowed with a wealth of human resources with a massive, 1.3 billion population, which constitutes a large market for African products and an abundance of labour which, if properly used, can enhance regional competitiveness. But frequent new rules at our common borders are making this a far-fetch reality. It is time for Africans to work together be it in governments, private sectors and civil society - to maximize the use of our available resources and claim the benefits of the AfCFTA.

The recent border standoff between The Gambia and Senegal was rather unfortunate. The incident, according to Gambian officials, was a decision by the Senegalese transport union to deny Gambian commercial vehicle entry into Senegalese territory. Few days later, The Gambia Transport union wants to do the same in a retaliatory tit-for-tat move.

While negotiation continues to find an amicable solution to the issue, Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal has ordered the removal of barriers for free movement of goods & services.

He further reaffirmed that Senegal will respect all the protocols on trade and transportation and thus instructed his ministers of Transport and Interior to liaise with their Gambian counterparts to remove all barriers to free movement of persons and goods between Senegal and Gambia.

This is a welcome development taking into account that The Gambia and Senegal are one people divided by colonial masters.

This decision couldn’t have come at a better time than now when the countries are working to accelerate regional integration through borderless Africa. To accelerate regional integration, there is need to expand access to trade finance and reduce behind-the-border trade restrictions such as excessive regulations and weak legal systems.

There is much that African countries need to do to increase intra-regional trade.

There is need to eliminate or significantly reduce non-tariff barriers that are major roadblocks to intra-African trade.

The list of non-tariff barriers is as long as it is comprehensive, ranging from prohibitive transaction costs to complex immigration procedures, limited capacity of border officials and costly import and export licensing procedures. For this to happen, it will take much more than political commitments; it will require practical steps on the ground even if they come with some costs.

“Free trade is not based on utility but on justice.”

Edmund Burke