Professor of Comparative African History at the University of Edinburgh, Prof. Paul Nugent, says the prolonged closure of borders within the sub-region has contributed to current level of hardships in most regional economies.
“Definitely it has; and it’s had dire impact on people living in border regions or towns. The closed borders caused the surge in prices for consumer goods, especially for landlocked countries that depend on the roads for their trade,” he said in response to whether the closure of borders has any effect on various regional economies.
This situation, he says has been compounded by the currently rising fuel prices which are an additional knock-on effect.
Prof. Nugent proposed that African nations should explore alternative modes of transporting goods across borders highlighting existing opportunities in rail and inland water transport.
“African nations should take rail and inland waterway transport very seriously as it will bring major benefits including the cost of moving goods from port to other inland or cross-border destinations,” he advised.
In the short-term, the reopening of the borders will be economic life and trading activities back to normalcy but it in the long-term, it will require respective governments to be more committed to the economic integration of the continent.
Touching on the continental market, Prof. Nugent called for strong political will and commitment from the various party states to tackle the various disincentives to cross-border trade, citing the numerous challenges facing cross-border traders in respective regional blocs across the continent.
He stressed that the lack of commitment to regional integration protocols could hamper the realization of the lofty ideas and opportunities that will be offered by an integrated continent.
“For instance, trading within ECOWAS has been a nightmare, despite the implementation of the ETLS, and this has been a massive disincentive to trade within the West African sub-region.
Similar thing might unfold at the continental level unless there is strong commitment to adhere to laid down protocols,” he noted.