Trade facilitation and economic transformation in Africa

Working and discussion papers
March 2016

Trade facilitation can stimulate economic transformation in Africa by raising exports, supporting export diversification, reallocating resources to more productive activities, improving access to cheaper and better-quality imported inputs and enabling participation in value chains. Many African regions have begun to formulate regional approaches to trade facilitation, and there are important examples of particular approaches working well. The introduction of one-stop border posts at Chirundu (on the Zambia–Zimbabwe border) and at the Busia border crossing between Kenya and Uganda have reduced the time and costs involved in moving goods across borders. Similar improvements in border crossing times have been recorded along the Trans Kalahari, Maputo Development and Northern Corridors.

Outside of these examples, however, the implementation of trade facilitation agreements has generally been problematic. It remains a challenge to translate the good intentions expressed in Africa’s regional trade agreements into concrete actions towards trade facilitation. What more can be done to harmonise regional trade facilitation instruments in cases where countries have overlapping membership in more than one regional economic community? What are the constraints to the elimination of non-tariff barriers hampering cross-border trade flows in Africa?

This paper seeks to explore these questions as well as address region-specific issues hampering progress.

This paper was produced in collaboration with the African Center for Economic Transformation, as a background paper for the African Transformation Forum in Kigali, Rwanda on 14-15 March 2016.