Opening of CEMAC Borders : The Expected Fallouts!

Trade exchanges between member countries of the sub-region is expected to bulge following the free m

It is now a truism that nationals of the six member countries of the Central Africa Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) can now circulate within the sub-region without visas. Equatorial Guinea on October 17 was the last to declare its borders open after Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo and Cameroon had earlier done so. In fact, the free movement of people and goods in the sub-region was supposed to go effective from January 1, 2014 following the decision signed by the Heads of State of the CEMAC sub-region in 2013. Though it has taken about four years before its effective implementation, the adage that “better late than never” still holds sway as some countries that were reticent about the decision have finally opened their borders at a time when the sub-region is going through a turbulent economic and financial crisis occasioned by the fall in oil prices as well as raw materials in the world market.  Experts believed that the low rate of trade exchanges between the six CEMAC member countries was largely due to the closed borders that has been the order of the day for donkey years, thus slowing economic development and sub-regional integration.  The fact that trade exchanges within the CEMAC space revolves just around 3.3 per cent in 2014, according to African Statistical Year Book is telling of the precarious economic situation caused by the closed borders for decades. The effective opening of the borders in the sub-region has therefore rekindled hope for an upsurge in trade. According to the 2013 Annual Statistics of the Cameroon Customs, the CEMAC zone is Cameroon’s 3rd and 7th trade destination with 7 per cent in export value and 2.9 per cent in import value respectively. Commodities such as fuel and lubricants, household soaps, chocolates and cocoa derivatives, carboys, bottles and flasks, aluminium sheets and strips, cement, iron steel bars, liquor, hide and skin, beef, sugar, palm oil and coco butter amongst others are dominating trade within the zone. Raw agricultural products such as plantains, cassava, vegetables, maize and sorghum, amongst others, are also highly commercialised especially along the border localities of the zone though most often unrecorded. However, CEMAC seem to have the lowest intra-regional trade exchanges compared to other blocks like the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) where intra-trade links have been soaring with an average of 18 per cent per year between 2005 and 2014 while Southern African Development Community (SADC) have seen its intra-regional trade links grow from 15.7 to 18.5 per cent since the year 2000.  Generally, African countries do not promote intra continental trade exchanges as statistics show only about 10 per cent while Europe has 60 per cent, North America 40 per cent and the Association of South-East Asian countries at 30 per cent as far as intra-regional trade is concerned. With the example initiated by the CEMAC sub-region now, a new sentiment is being whipped up in Africa with far reaching fallouts expected in terms of volume of trade exchanges.

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