Esther Dzviti & Freddy Mambara
Harare – Restrictions on movements instituted by most countries as a COVID-19 control measure have taken their toll on informal cross-border trade in the SADC region, a United Nations agency has said.
On the formal trade front, countries in the region variably recorded surpluses and deficits in the first quarter of the year. Most SADC member states are heavily reliant on exports of raw and/or semi-processed metals, minerals and agricultural produce. At the same time, they are big importers of finished goods.
February 2021 saw Botswana’s exports being valued at P6, 330.1 million, a 27.1 percent decrease from the revised January 2021 value of P8, 683.4 million. Imports amounted to P6,316.1 million, reflecting a reduction of 12.3 percent from the revised January 2021 value of P7, 203.9 million.
Diamonds were the main export commodity group with a contribution of 93.2 percent of total receipts. A trade surplus of P13.9 million was recorded in February 2021, following a trade surplus of P1,479.5 million a month earlier.
The value of exports for March in Namibia increased by 6.3 percent to N$6.5 billion from the level of N$6.2 billion recorded in February 2021. In that month, Namibia had a trade deficit to the tune of N$2.6 billion compared to a deficit of N$2.7 billion in February.
The South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) said the country had trade surplus of R52.77 billion in March. Exports increased by 45.6 percent year-on-year whilst imports increased by 22.7 percent over the same period.
Zambia, too, had a trade surplus in March, with the positive balance amounting to K7.3 billion compared to a surplus of K8.1 billion in February.
“The volume of refined copper exported for the period January to March 2021 was 228.0 thousand metric tonnes while that of 2020 for the same period was 206.7 thousand metric tonnes, representing a 10.3 percent increase,” said ZamStats.
The UN International Organisation for Migration this week said border closures were negatively impacting on informal cross border trade in SADC.
“Informal cross border trade, which accounts for up to 40 percent of total intra-SADC trade with an estimated value of US$17,6 billion, has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because of border closures and travel restrictions throughout the region. These measures have had a negative impact on the livelihoods of informal cross border traders,” the IOM said.Head of IOM Zimbabwe’s governance and development unit, Ms Esther Wiesmann, weighed in saying: “Informal cross border traders have a critical role to play in mitigating the negative socio-economic impact of COVID-19. We must continue to equip those engaging in informal cross border trade and the frontline officials who work with them daily, with the tools to operate efficiently during the pandemic.”