Govts challenged to enhance intra-Africa trade, ease travel

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JICA's Takada speaks at the opening of the workshop yesterday. / Peterson Tumwebaze

Efforts aimed at deepening trade among African countries have been boosted by the launch of a new trade facilitation tool. Launched yesterday, the One-Stop Border Post Sourcebook is tipped to help governments improve cross-border and intra-regional trade across Africa and enhance the continent’s competitiveness.

Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) chief executive officer, said the trade facilitation tool seeks to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach towards easing trade, the movement of people, and consolidating security.

Mayaki said: “One-stop border posts (OSBPs) are crucial in facilitating trade on the continent because they remove the need for travellers and goods to stop twice to undertake border crossing formalities.

“It also calls for the application of joint controls to minimise routine activities and duplication.”

“Therefore, it is envisaged that the OSBP project will help reduce the cost and time transporters take to ferry goods across borders,” he added.

Mayaki was speaking at a regional domestication workshop for the OSBP sourcebook yesterday.

The workshop, which started yesterday, ends on March 16. He said NEPAD is committed to supporting initiatives that promote trade on the continent, urging governments to and key stakeholders to fully utilise the sourcebook to help them determine the best way to develop OSBPs in each region.

The development of the second edition of the sourcebook was supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), NEPAD, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Snowden Mmadi, an infrastructure expert at COMESA, said many studies show that time lost at the ports, borders, and checkpoints is one of the big obstacles to trade growth and competitiveness in Africa.

The expert added that infrastructure development is central to facilitating intra-regional trade and the movement of people, goods and services.

“Therefore, promotion of the one-stop border post system is instrumental in enhancing the continent’s competitiveness. Africa still lags behind due to low levels of trade and industrialisation,” said Dr John Tambi, an regional integration expert at NEPAD.

He added that there is a need to fast-track operationalisation of OSBPs across the continent to ease cross-border trade.

According to Hiroyuki Takada, the JICA chief representative in Rwanda, regional trade in Africa faces many challenges, including high transport cost.

“It is about three times more expensive to transport a container from Dar es Salaam to Kigali compared to shipping costs from Yokohama in Japan to Dar es Salaam. The high transport charges increase the cost of doing business, especially for landlocked countries like Rwanda, and discourage private investments and are, therefore, an additional barrier to trade on the continent,” he said.

Takada urged African countries, including Rwanda, to strengthen intra-regional trade and deepen regional integration to spur growth on the continent. According to Takada, it is important to address issues like tariffs and trade quotas to deepen integration and also eliminate non-tariff barriers that disrupt the flow of goods, services and investment as well as movement of people.

“This is necessary to increase the size of the market and promote competitiveness, hence lower cost of production.”

He added that Japan has been making strong commitments to African development through the Yokohama Action Plan and Nairobi Declaration, as well as implementation of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) initiative.

TICAD VI was held in Nairobi in August last year, where Japan committed to continue supporting connectivity and economic integration of Africa, including trade corridors and OSBP development.

The Japanese agency supported the construction of Rusumo OSBP and other facilities, including an international bridge between Rwanda and Tanzania, among other infrastructure projects in the country.