If African leaders can draft an accord aimed at taking down current cross-border trade hurdles in sub-Saharan Africa, the continent will earn an additional $20 billion in annual earnings, according to the World Bank.
Dismantling border trade barriers could also bolster the continent’s food trade over the next couple of years, avoiding the negative impact of Africa’s deteriorating drought and surging food prices in the process.
“However, this potential is not being realised because farmers face more trade barriers in getting their food to market than anywhere else in the world. Too often borders get in the way of getting food to homes and communities which are struggling with too little to eat,” Makhtar Diop, World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, says.
West Africa’s Sahel region has about 19 million people threatened by hunger and malnutrition, making the opening of borders for trade among African countries the more urgent.
World Bank believes that in Africa, the need for food is set to double in 2020 as more and more people exit the rural backwaters and move to settle in the bright cities.
“Rapid urbanisation will challenge the ability of farmers to ship their cereals and other foods to consumers when the nearest trade market is just across a national border,” Diop says.
Africa’s production of staple foods is valued at about $50 billion with only 5 percent of cereals imported from other African countries.
This happens at a time when fertile land remains uncultivated on the continent.
“Africa has the ability to grow and deliver good quality food to put on the dinner tables of the continent’s families,” Diop concludes.