Pictured: Patrick Osakwe, Chief, Africa Section, UNCTAD

African countries need to adopt a new approach to Intra-Africa trade. This is the underlying message in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2013, titled ‘Intra-Africa Trade: Unlocking Private Sector Dynamism’.

Speaking in Johannesburg when the report was released, Patrick Osakwe, team leader of this report, says: “The average transport costs in Africa represent 7.7% of total export value, which is twice the world average of 3.7%. Boosting intra-Africa trade will require extensive changes in trade policy and the establishment of new infrastructure specifically designed to foster it.”

After the launch, Osakwe told Transport World Africa: “Governments on the continent are serious about eradicating non-tariff barriers, especially at border posts, but it is the employees at the coal face that are the hindrance to eliminating them. This is because they are not being informed properly by their respective governments of changing legislation regarding size of axle loads and the lengths of the vehicles.

“Paying bribes to officials is also a major concern, because at the end of the day it makes the goods more expensive for the consumer because the cost is inevitably passed onto them.

“Transport is one of the most important aspects in promoting intra-Africa trade and is also one of the biggest constraints due to infrastructure issues and non-tariff barriers affecting the transport sector. It is a big challenge and it is something we are not going to be able to solve over the next two to three years. However, in the medium to long term, I am optimistic that we will see an improvement in intra-Africa trade if we keep the momentum going in improving Africa’s road infrastructure and border crossing issues along with eradicating non-tariff barriers.”