Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 20, 2021 (ECA) - Land locked developing countries (LLDCs) are vulnerable to fluctuations which were further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in border closures that continue to affect the movement of goods and people. A high-level roundtable on Saturday discussed possible measures that can be taken to address some of these challenges and support LLDCs during this critical time.
In opening remarks to the meeting, Mr. Francis Ikome, Chief of the Regional Integration Section in the Economic Commission for Africa’s Regional Integration and Trade Division, said the think tank has a continuing interest in the development of LLDCs. He said within the scope of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) lay an opportunity to promote the smooth functioning of corridors, easing life for Africa’s LLDCs.
He said Africa’s infrastructure deficit posed a challenge that brings about additional costs in trade, especially for the LLDCs. Mr. Ikome noted that African LLDCs were making commendable progress as noted by the mid-term review report of the Vienna Programme of Action, but still had a long way to go. He also recognized the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 in the development of LLDCs, adding that no country will be able to overcome the pandemic alone and therefore collaboration was key.
“Corridors create opportunities for industrialization and are vectors of market growth. The AfCFTA provides an opportunity for promoting smooth functioning of corridors for sustainable industrialization and diversification during the COVID-19 era,” said Mr. Ikome.
For her part, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Ms. Amina Abou-Zeid, said the AUC also pays special attention to corridors to ensure LLDCs are connected and that trade flows easily.
“Corridors don’t work alone. They need to be linked to ports which are affected by challenges like border control harassment and lengthy queues at the borders resulting in delays,” she said.
“One of the ways of tackling these challenges is digitalization, which provides an opportunity for facilitating the smooth flow of services. Digitalization goes beyond borders into e-commerce which has increased five-fold in the last year.”
Ms. Abou-Zeid also noted that energy, coupled with digitalization, offered immense opportunities for Africa’s LLDCs.
She noted that the AUC, through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, was working to harmonize health measures and necessary health credentials at borders to ease access and mobility to improve the fluidity of transport and flow of people.
For her part, Ms. Fekitamoela Utoikamanu, Under Secretary General, UN-OHRLLS, noted that impacts of COVID-19 affected the flow of transport in LLDCs, hampering their access to equipment needed to adequately respond to the pandemic.
She highlighted the need to enhance the use of digital tools, for example, electronic cargo systems, tracking systems and digital payment systems to ensure that transit transport systems are sustainable.
Ms. Utoikamanu also called for the roll out of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in land locked countries.
“LLDCs by their nature are more reliant on regional and global cooperation and the AfCFTA offers an opportunity for them to be integrated into the African market,” she said.
Ms. Utoikamanu also noted that corridors were central to Africa’s recovery from the pandemic and that transport and infrastructure were important for sustainable development.
Delegates looked at real life examples from the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) and Zambia. They noted the importance of digitalization to aid the smooth functioning of corridors for sustainable industrialization and diversification.
The participants also called for more collaboration and partnerships to aid Africa to recover better from the pandemic.
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Tel: +251 11 551 5826