This post is continuation of a previous article on regional integration in Africa.
Reducing tariffs is a great start for increasing trade within Africa, but important non-tariff barriers (NTBs) must also be reduced in order to boost trade both within and outside of the continent. In fact, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa found the costs of NTBs in 2010 were higher than the costs of tariffs. The African Development Bank notes that, “while tariffs have progressively fallen, the key challenge to intra-African trade is non-tariff barriers that stifle the movement of goods, services and people across borders.”
What sort of non-tariff barriers exist in Africa? Infrastructure across the continent is poor, discouraging the movement of goods and people. Less than a quarter of roads are paved, and those are often filled with potholes. It’s not uncommon for airfare with a layover in Europe or Asia to be cheaper than direct intra-continental flights. Meanwhile, seaports are crumbling and rail connection is paltry.
“Thick borders” are also an issue, created by burdensome administrative procedures for clearing goods for import and export. Lines of trucks at the border lead to waits measured in days due to excessive bureaucratic red tape and burdensome administrative procedures. A report by Transparency International (TI) and TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) found that drivers at Rwanda-Tanzania customs stations spent an average of 72 hours obtaining customs clearance. World Bank economist Paul Brenton found that a truck serving supermarkets across a Southern Africa border may need to carry up to 1600 documents to comply with different countries’ requirements for permits, licenses, and other required paperwork.