Some international trade experts have called on African countries to adopt a unitary approach when it comes to border restrictions and other related decisions that affect cross border trade.
Speaking on the Eye on Port program, the National President for Borderless Alliance, Ziad Hamoui expressed that, “African countries have to display more solidarity among ourselves.”
Corroborating Mr. Hamoui’s position, the Secretary General for the International Chamber of Commerce, Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame said, “with us in Africa, starting from the ECOWAS block through to the African Union, to the UN should support bodies like the WHO. Countries do not need to exit once there is a crisis to fix the problem internally. The virus does not know any borders and you cannot contain them by locking down your borders. We in business are hard hit by such decisions.”
Analysing the impact of border closure on the facilitation of cross border trade, the trade experts detailed some of the economic hardships that have been experienced as a result of the border closure.
The Secretary General for ICC Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame said, “the pandemic has had its negative impact, and this has happened as a result of the measures taken unilaterally by countries such as the closure of borders and the trade and travel restrictions. We could recall a time where seafarers were struggling to embark at the various destinations and now, we are feeling the impact during this Christmas period.”
“ECOWAS is aware of the fact that COVID has impacted them with a decrease of 5.5% in terms of GDP which translates roughly to USD 50 Billion in loss for the economic development of West Africa. As West Africa, we cannot continue to go down like this,” the National President for Borderless Alliance, Ziad Hamoui, added.
Ziad Hamoui revealed that early this year, considerations had been taken to gradually ease the border restrictions beginning January 1, 2022, and he is hopeful that positive outcomes would emerge from the meeting of heads of state regarding the issue.
He said while he is all for the adoption of necessary measures to safeguard public safety, a measured approach should be taken to balance health with economic prosperity.
Ziad Hamoui touched on the new Omicron variant and its potential impact on easing of restrictions.
He said, “I am aware of the dynamic with Omicron, but I also know from our research online that most of the indicators related to Omicron point out that it seems, so far, at least, that it is a thunderstorm in a teacup and so that is why I agree with Mr. Doni-Kwame about avoiding knee-jerk reactions and reverting to primary instincts every time there is an external shock with regards to nationalism.”
The Secretary General of ICC Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, also encouraged world leaders to come out with a well-defined holistic plan to tackle the COVID 19 pandemic.
He said it is also very important for incentives to be applied to the use of cost of digital trading, considering the reduced need for physical interactions.
Mr. Doni-Kwame suggested that “there is the need to get the WTO to renew the moratorium on custom duties on electronic transmission so that the cost of using the internet should be done at the barest minimum as a result of the pandemic, we do a lot of things digitally. It is a wakeup call.”
The trade experts also highlighted the need to catalyse infrastructural investments to support cross border trade especially transit trading to promote efficiency.
Mr. Hamoui lamented that, “not all goods should be on the back of a truck on road, some goods are better served on rail, some by shipping. Here is Africa, road transportation is more competitive than shipping because goods have to go and tranship in Europe first or Asia before coming to our neighbouring African country. This is because we do not have the required connectivity by ourselves.”
Mr. Doni Kwame on the other hand, called for private sector to partner governments to develop the necessary infrastructure in rail and water transport services.