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UNECA amplifies joint partnership to unlock challenges faced by landlocked, small islands nations

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United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) calls member states and partners to work more on overcoming challenges faced by Africa’s Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for the implementation of Africa continental free trade area (AfCFTA).
This was highlighted at a high-level event jointly organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) with the theme of “Leveraging the AfCFTA towards addressing the peculiar trade and development challenges of Africa’s LLDCs and SIDS,” in Harare, Zimbabwe from February 27 and 28. As Africa has 16 landlocked countries and 6 SIDS, senior governmental officials of these countries took part in the meeting.
“The AfCFTA Secretariat launched a guided trade initiative in October 2022 to guide member States to trade within the Agreement. To date only 8 out 46 member States who ratified the agreements are taking part in the Initiative which demonstrates the willingness yet showcasing at the same time that implementation challenges exist. Out of 8 countries, 1 is LLDCs and 1 SIDS, 3 transit countries,” said Jane Karonga, Economic Affairs Officer, adding that, “Africa’s landlocked developing countries and SIDS tend to be disadvantaged in terms of industrialization because of the higher costs of freight and unpredictable transit times, environmental challenges as well as structural impediments.”
LLDCs are distinguished by their absence of sea access and ensuing geographic isolation from global markets. According to the meeting, LLDCs face difficulties related to delays at border crossings, transit and customer procedures, an inefficient logistics system, weak institutions, and poor infrastructure, all of which contribute to significantly higher transportation and other trade transaction costs for these countries compared to their coastal counterparts. As mentioned, these probative costs undermine LLDCs’ attempts to completely benefit from regional and global flow, decrease competitiveness, diminish export profits, increase the cost of imported manufacturing inputs, and discourage investment.
“AfCFTA is accompanied by many annexes and instruments such as Rules of Origin, Dispute mechanism Settlement, NTB Monitoring System, and the agreement itself given them additional years to liberalize their goods in addition to a protocol on Free movement of people thereby ensuring that the Agreement is inclusive and sustainable,” Jane explained.
SIDS also experience a variety of difficulties, such as their remote geographic location, which frequently results in expensive import and export fees for goods and services as well as erratic levels of international traffic. According to estimates, compared to other emerging nations, SIDS are at least 35% more susceptible to financial and economic shocks.
“Issues of debt, impact of Ukraine and Russian war, building back living with COVID and inflationary tendencies is constraining the LLDCS and SIDS much more given their landlockedness and sealockedness. However, AfCFTA presents an opportunity to address some of these challenges due to its promise in integrating the continent into a single market and can address their peculiar challenges in a targeted manner.”
The meeting offers some actionable recommendations on how to leverage the opportunities afforded by the AfCFTA for accelerated implementation of the priorities of the VPOA and the SAMOA Pathway.
“I believe political will is present in these countries as demonstrated by ratification of AfCFTA. The missing ingredient is technical and financial resources coupled by peace and security issues is some of countries is making development a challenge,” Jane emphasizes.
“The main outcome from the meeting is that the challenges faced by LLDCs and SIDS are still prevalent and more needs to be done by respective member States and partners to address the unique challenges faces by these countries. Implementation of the AfCFTA is seen as a game changer in turning the challenge into opportunities in these countries,” said Jane adding that further, financial and technical resources are needed as well as good governance and leadership which is critical to drive implementation.
“The successful implementation of the AfCFTA is an imperative for the African LLDCs and SIDS as it can facilitate their integration into regional and global value chains as well as expand their trade and productive capabilities. The AfCFTA provides particular benefits: in addition to reduction in tariffs as well as provisions on trade facilitation, transit and customs cooperation and collaborative efforts to address adverse climate changes,” said Jane indicating that ECA will support in Advocacy, training, research, capacity building and convening meeting for members to sharing of experiences and learn from each other.
“LLDCs and SIDS can often be differentiated by the specific challenges they face, but are also confronted with many common challenges, particularly those related to the economic, social, and environmental factors that are global in scale,” said Melaku Desta Coordinator of ECA’s African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC).
“Capacity dimension is key in advancing LLDCs and SIDS to leverage AfCFTA to realize agenda 2060,” complimented Mamadou Biteye, ACBF Executive Secretary adding that, “ACBF is prioritizing trade and major economic growth as one of its strategy focusing areas and collaboration with its other partners is looking for a way to support countries accelerate implementation of AfCFTA.”
Manasseh Ntaganda, a senior policy officer in the African Union Commission’s Department of Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Mining, drew attention to the serious difficulties that LLDCs still face as a result of the COVID-19’s lingering effects, which have now been made even worse by the latest disruptions brought on by the conflict in Ukraine. She emphasized that the solutions outlined in the VPOA and SAMOA completely address these unusual difficulties. She stressed the value of trade facilitation, connectivity, and the use of cutting-edge technologies to help LLDCs and SIDS integrate into major markets, “In advance of the Fourth International Conference on SIDS, which will be held in 2024, and the Third United Nations Conference on LLDCs, this meeting provides a chance to discuss development priorities for these two groups of countries.”

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