Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) are the main roadblocks to trade on the African continent — much more than tariffs, but this might soon come to an end after the UNCTAD and the African Union built a tool that will be used to monitor and eliminate non-tariff barriers across the continent.
NTBs are restrictions that result from prohibitions, conditions or specific market requirements that make importation or exportation of products difficult and/or costly.
Often called non-tariff measures (NTMs), these policy measures have non-trade objectives like protecting health and the environment, but limit imports and exports.
In fact, a recent UNCTAD report shows that African countries could gain $20 billion per year by tackling the trade distorting effects of non-tariff barriers at the continental level – way more than they could pick up by eliminating tariffs.
Market watchers say while governments have the right to use NTBs to, for example, protect the health of their citizens, sometimes the measures are protectionism in disguise, distorting trade unnecessarily.
The UNCTAD and the African Union has now built a tool, which is accessed online at www.tradebarriers.africa that is expected to tear down these trade walls.
The new online tool, which went live last week, will enable traders to report trade barriers they encounter across the continent.
The tool has a reporting, monitoring and elimination mechanism where private sector can file complaint on a specific trade obstacle. The complaint is then transmitted to the government of the responsible trading partner to react to the complaint and resolve it within concrete timelines.
The reported NTBs also feed into national and regional trade policy improvements.
If fully put to use, the reporting mechanism is expected to result in increased intra-Africa trade, which according to Zimtrade CEO Allan Majuru, is central to the development of the entire continent.
Majuru said Zimbabwe is one of the countries that is set to benefit from increased intra-Africa trade.
“The African continent is home to more than 1 billion people and some of the fastest going economies in the world. What this means is that promotion of trade between African countries will link Zimbabwe to a combined market with a GDP of more than US$3,3 trillion,” said Majuru responding to questions posed by Business Weekly.
He added that the easing of trade between African countries will also facilitate the establishment of regional value chains in which inputs are sourced from different African countries to add value before exporting externally.
“Increasing intra-Africa trade is a collective effort, hence the need to constantly monitor impediments affecting smooth integration of trade within the continent,” Majuru said.
He said the new platform allows for the information to be fully analysed and result in timeous resolution.
In the past there were central inquiry and notification points, hence exporters and importers continued to face same challenges, which were duplicated across the different countries in Africa.
However, the new platform will also provide evidence that is critical for decision making process during continent-wide consultations and trade negotiations, Majuru said.