IFPRI: COVID-19 border policies create problems for African trade
A blog post from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) describes how African countries imposing emergency border restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 are delaying the continental free trade agreement, contributing to fears of a new food crisis, and disrupting cross-border trade. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was supposed to establish a continent-wide free movement of goods starting on 1 July, but the African Union Commission has proposed postponing the launch until 1 January 2021. In addition, trade restrictions implemented in Africa and elsewhere in response to the pandemic are fuelling fears of a new food crisis on the continent.
Most African countries have closed land borders to travellers while still allowing freight to pass under tighter controls, which sometimes allows the movement of only agricultural and food products. Over one 10-day period in March, 25 African countries imposed such measures on land borders. Almost all these countries have also suspended the arrival of international flights, at least from countries particularly affected by the virus. Many governments have also imposed curfews. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, and Namibia have taken a different path: the entry of people at border posts is subject to temperature control and testing, followed by hospitalisation and/or quarantine if necessary.
These measures have been adopted to protect public health, but their economic consequences could be significant. For example, prohibiting people from crossing the border restricts informal trade, widely practised in Africa and often the main source of income for a family. This type of trade accounts for a significant share of recorded trade, for example, between 15 and 30% of official exports in Uganda.
The blog post describes the situation in detail, and considers potential solutions to reduce the costs for farmers and transporters of agricultural and food products. Read the full post here.