This contribution proposes that African governments consider adopting border reform concessions that cover a range of solutions besides infrastructure. Should a concession be limited to infrastructure provision alone, the net effect of infrastructure on trade efficiency needs to be determined in an endeavour to arrive at fair user charges.
AfCFTA’s Protocol on Trade
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) holds great promise for the continent with the agreement expected to increase intra-African trade and secure socio-economic benefits for member States. Despite trade under the new agreement commencing on 1 January 2020, members are yet to conclude negotiations on the issue of Rules of Origin (RoO). RoO are mechanisms used to determine the economic nationality of a product. Preferential RoO constitute an essential part of preferential trade arrangements, such as Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Annex 2 of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods makes provision for RoO that will provide for a single set of criteria to be applied across the continent. However, discussions on the substantive RoO, which are to be articulated in Appendix IV of Annex 2, are yet to be finalised. In the meantime, member States are expected to apply the preferential RoO covered by their relevant Regional Economic Communities (RECs) until harmonisation is achieved through the AfCFTA’s rules.
Regional integration requires not only the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, but also the removal of impediments that cause the physical movement of goods across borders to be slow and costly. These impediments may arise due to defects in policies, laws or procedures. Thus, trade should not only be liberalised, but it also needs to be facilitated. The World Trade Organization (WTO) defines trade facilitation as “the simplification, modernization and harmonization of export and import processes.” Six of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are land-locked (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Therefore, inefficiency and high costs in cross-border trade have detrimental impacts on their ability to participate in global, as well as in regional trade. SADC states are parties to several agreements that aim at facilitating trade. However, the implementation of obligations remains a chronic challenge.