Colonial regulatory frameworks hindering SADC region trade

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Timo Shihepo

Windhoek – Trans Kalahari Corridor Secretariat executive director, Leslie Mpofu, has urged southern Africa to get rid of the inherited colonial stringent and senseless regulatory frameworks that are preventing the free movement of goods in the region.  

The Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) is a tripartite trans-boundary corridor management institution between Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, which was established with a political and economic vision to pursue or contribute towards deeper regional integration programmes of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) and New Partnership for Africa’s Economic Development (NEPAD).

Speaking to The Southern Times on the sidelines of the business seminar on “Doing Business in Botswana” held in Windhoek, Namibia, this week, Mpofu said before colonialism there were no hindrances to free movement, which are deterring trade today.

“As countries, we inherited stringent and senseless regulatory frameworks. We now talk of quotas, which before we were colonised were not there. Our people were free to trade with whoever,” he said.

SADC, as a region, does have a market for its products (257.7 million in 2012) and if one includes the rest of Africa the market is a massive 1.2 billion. The problem with SADC and Africa at large is that countries do not trade among each other. 

Africa Union data indicate that intra-SADC trade is currently at 15-17 percent. The African continent is also lagging behind when it comes to intra-trade compared to other continents. Intra-African trade stands at around 12 percent compared to 60 percent, 40 percent, 30 percent intra-regional trade that has been achieved by Europe, North America and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), respectively.

Mpofu said such statistics clearly indicate that the region and continent do not consume what they produce.

“The question is: why is that so? I believe the problem lies with the regulatory frameworks, which we inherited and are protectionist as well as underdeveloped corridors that do not link major African economic nodes. Regulation of cross-border trade and transport is supposed to be a propeller of, and not an obstacle to, enhanced regional trade and growth of cross-border trade and business,” he said.

Mpofu then said regional economic integration remains one of the vital mechanisms for reconnecting Africans with one another, at both socio-economic and cultural levels. This, he said, would allow African countries with small economies to bargain meaningfully on trade and other geopolitical strategic imperatives at a global level.

Asked what the Trans Kalahari Corridor Secretariat was doing to improve trade beyond Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, Mpofu said they have developed a programme aimed at promoting development initiatives along the corridor.

“The corridor should not just be a transport corridor but it should be a developmental and an economic corridor. We are doing all these to satisfy the SADC protocols, SACU and NEPAD agreements. We are engaged in discussions for trade facilitation, serious movements of goods within the member states and beyond. So far we have managed to develop a system that reduces the bureaucracy challenges when traveling along this corridor,” he said.

Mpofu added that for Africa to trade meaningfully with the rest of the world, there is a need to earnestly think about the continent’s economic prospects beyond the confines of the senseless borders that were imposed on all the countries by colonisers.

“Linking Africa is essentially concerned with trade and transport regulatory frameworks and thus will result in deeper regional integration. I believe that linking Africa, and thus trade more with Africa, we will be able to remove the notorious fly that we always see in pictures sitting on the face of an African child,” he said.

 

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