Editorial: Supply of goods, agricultural produce and essential drugs must flow freely through borders

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African governments are being impressed upon to keep their trade borders open for business in order to ensure the free flow of medical supplies, food and other essentials which will aid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic outbreak has forced several jurisdictions to close their borders in order to contain rapid spread of the novel virus. The World Bank notes that experience from previous crises shows that imposing export restrictions on medical and food products limits their access – particularly to the poorest, who will be adversely affected the most.

Bearing this in mind therefore, we can confidently say that the government of Ghana is properly briefed since the president made it clear in his first broadcast to announce the lockdown that closure of our borders will not restrict supply of goods, which has proven to be spot-on.

“… Although deemed necessary to contain spread of the virus, closed borders make it difficult for medical supplies and other necessities of life to reach people,” the World Bank said in its Africa’s Pulse report (April 2020).

Small-scale cross-border trade contributes to the livelihood of about 43 percent of the region’s population, predominantly the poor and women; and such trading activities are also dominated by agricultural and livestock products – essential to maintaining food security.

The World Bank also warned that export restrictions will raise the price and limit the supply of COVID-19-related goods and food to critically affected areas or hotspots, and that would be counter-productive.

African countries depend heavily on imports of medical supplies, with 94 percent of pharmaceuticals in the region imported from outside. Export bans within the region prevent the continental supply from being allocated to where it is needed the most, the Bank states.

In a previous edition of the B&FT, we captured a story wherein the World Bank said measures such as lockdowns used to curb spread of the coronavirus pandemic by many advanced countries may not work in Africa.

It therefore insisted that governments in Africa design a model that suits their systems, and this falls perfectly in line with the measures adopted by our government to adopt a partial lockdown so that the large informal sector can have the flexibility to eke out a living and not be unduly disadvantaged.

We dare say that was a very apt decision to take so that all are catered to in equal measure.

 

 

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