The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has launched a new COVID-19 cross-border trade report which urges governments on the continent to adopt policies which also prioritise essential trade.
Titled ‘Facilitating Cross-Border Trade Through A Coordinated African Response To COVID-19,’ the report says continued inefficiencies and disruptions to cross-border trade presented significant challenges for Africa’s fight against COVID-19. This presented a risk to the continent’s progress towards the attainment of the sustainable development and goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
Maintaining trade flows as much as possible during the pandemic will be crucial in providing access to essential food and much-needed medical items, and in limiting negative impacts on jobs and poverty. This is according to Stephen Karingi, Director of the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD), which penned the report.
African nations introduced lockdowns and various restrictions that negatively affected cross-border and transit freight transportation to curtail the rapid spread of the virus. The border restrictions and regulations have helped minimize infections and deaths across the continent, but had a negative impact on cross-border trade and economic activity, hindering both significantly.
The report recommends that African nations should cooperate and harmonize COVID-19 border regulations to reduce delays, while not undermining the safety of trade. It proposes fast-tracking implementation of existing Regional Economic Community (REC) COVID-19 guidelines, including establishing regional coordinating committees with the primary task of addressing operational issues at national borders.
In addition, the report says regional efforts must also be coordinated at continental level through the African Union (AU) Commission. A common COVID-19 AU protocol on trade and transport is needed, given the overlap in membership of RECs and shared trade facilitation goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).