The free movement of people, goods and services are critical cornerstone in any development crusade. Africa is gifted with an abundance of natural and energy resources, outstanding geographical locations, as well as many ports that facilitate access to and within our African countries. Our region is also endowed with a wealth of human resources with a massive, 1.3 billion population, which constitutes a large market for African products and an abundance of labour which, if properly used, can enhance regional competitiveness.
But frequent new rules at our common borders are making this a far-fetch reality. It is time for Africans to work together be it in governments, private sectors and civil society to maximise the use of our available resources and claim the benefits of the AfCFTA.
The overarching objective behind the AfCFTA is the elimination or reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers amongst the 54 Countries that agreed to be members of the bloc by providing a single market for goods and services, facilitated by movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration and prosperity.
The question is, how far have we achieved these objectives.
Last year for example, The Gambia and Senegal had a boarder scuffle leading huge economic loss in trade.
While negotiation continued to find an amicable solution to the issue, Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal has ordered the removal of barriers for free movement of goods & services.
He further reaffirmed that Senegal will respect all the protocols on trade and transportation and thus instructed his ministers of Transport and Interior to liaise with their Gambian counterparts to remove all barriers to free movement of persons and goods between Senegal and Gambia.
This was a welcome development taking into account that The Gambia and Senegal are one people divided by colonial masters.
This decision couldn't have come at a better time than now when the countries are working to accelerate regional integration through borderless Africa. To accelerate regional integration, there is need to expand access to trade finance and reduce behind-the-border trade restrictions such as excessive regulations and weak legal systems.
There is much that African countries need to do to increase intra-regional trade.
There is need to eliminate or significantly reduce non-tariff barriers that are major roadblocks to intra-African trade.
The list of non-tariff barriers is as long as it is comprehensive, ranging from prohibitive transaction costs to complex immigration procedures, limited capacity of border officials and costly import and export licensing procedures. For this to happen, it will take much more than political commitments; it will require practical steps on the ground even if they come with some costs.
"Free Trade puts consumers at the centre of economic activity. it lowers the cost of imports, which gives people the opportunity to buy more with the same amount of money: domestic producers have to compete with the lowest global costs or invest in new business."