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The End of Non-Tariff Barriers in Parts of Africa?

In preparation for the AfCFTA, a number of regional economic communities (RECs) started to identify and have their member states remove NTBs.  No less than 716 out of 796 NTBs (88.9%) registered in the online reporting system implemented by 3 RECs (COMESA, EAC and the SADC) have been removed, leaving only 80 NTBs left unresolved. The main NTBs removed include restrictive licensing, permitting, and other requirements applied at the border. Barriers behind the border, such as unwarranted technical barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures were also targeted. A 4th REC, ECOWAS, has been less successful due to the large number of NTBs operated by its 15 member states in the form of infrastructure, language, movement of people and goods, but work is continuing. While this is greatly welcomed by cross-border traders, EFA believes that many other NTBs continue to exist, particularly those created to safeguard local companies by putting them at a competitive advantage to foreign companies. Many of these NTBs relate to taxes, and other financial instruments.

However, despite all the claims of removing NTBs, Ugandan entrepreneurs have questioned the willingness of the political leadership of the East African Community (EAC) to make the region one trading bloc and investment destination, and point out that many challenges to cross-border trade persist.The businesses, mainly manufacturers, say they still cannot trade across the region despite assurances by the EAC leadership and national governments about abolishing non-trade barriers.

In addition to the systems set up by the RECs to identify NTBs, the International Trade Centre (ITC) has devised a reporting system called the Trade Obstacles Alert Mechanism (TOAM) platform where businesses can list the obstacles and challenges they encounter on a digital platform. TOAM is an international initiative of the International Trade Centre (ITC), developed in collaboration with public and private institutions at the national and regional levels. The latest country to take up this system is the Seychelles.

Alastair Tempest

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