African states must open their borders

Transporters queue for clearance at the Kenya -Uganda border at malaba. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Transporters queue for clearance at the Kenya -Uganda border at Malaba. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

In 2016, the African Development Bank (AfDB) published a devastating statistic that spoke volumes about Africa’s relationship with itself.

The fact is that only 13 out of 55 countries in Africa have given liberal access (described as Visa free or visa on arrival access) to other African countries.

This means that Africans cannot freely access 55 per cent of their continent (or at the very least with minimal procedures). Yet free movement of goods and people has been the catalyst of tremendous social, political and economic development since the dawn of time.

Movement is at the very core of human nature and when curtailed tends to have adverse effects on every sphere of our lives. Restricting movement is stifling economic growth for Africa.

As of last year, intra-African trade stood at only 10 per cent of its total trade.

We are talking about the second largest continent in the world covering an estimated 30 million square kilometres, trading far less with itself compared to, for instance, Asia whose inter-regional trade is estimated at 18 per cent.

Incidentally the business case for opening up borders across the continent is strong and highlights a crucial ingredient in the building and sustenance of formidable economies that will secure the future of Africa.  

Over the past five years, many African countries have invested in building and expanding infrastructure extensively.

These investments are aimed at ensuring that commerce thrives and socio-economic development increases from opening up highways, building port capacity and railway development etc.

However, wouldn’t it be wonderful if these investments focused inwards as much as they are outwards? Many of these developments are looking at how resources and commodities can easily move in and out of Africa.