Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Import bans: sustainable solutions for the development of African countries?

20.03.2020
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Faced with the challenges of independence and the complete decolonization of the African continent, there have been many different opinions on the various policies to be implemented in order to achieve full autonomy. Between political transformations and economic reformations, foundations have been laid for a concrete development process specific to the countries of the continent. However, despite all the goodwill of some leaders, such as Thomas Sankara, who nurtured the ambition to see their countries change their status by being part of the intermediate zone termed "emerging countries", it has not been an easy journey. For the most ambitious among them, the severe financial crisis of the 1980s and 1990s did not totally alter the remarkable results of the economic transformation. Opting almost for a more incentive-based policy, centered on the "I consume what I produce" model, many of these countries have turned to local companies to boost development.

According to Marie-André Tall, a 55-year-old Senegalese woman and president of the African Association for Agricultural Export (AAFEX), who wants to promote local, regional and African consumption, “today, Africans want to be sure of what they eat and they prioritize what is produced and processed locally“. In this light, it is time to implement measures and policies to ban the import of certain products. These measures will then be able to fight against a new model of colonization, stimulating local production and, above all, considerably boosting the economies of the African countries that adopt it.

“I consume what I produce”, a firewall to the textile colonization model

In an environment where the impact of colonization on African countries has increased and where Africans tend to believe that what comes from elsewhere is necessarily better, many governments have understood the urgency of rapidly reversing the balance of power through a paradigm shift. Many of these countries that understood the urgency of moving away from the “barter” logic inherited from colonization have begun to feel the benefits. West Africa countries are among the first to benefit from this policy, as they were able to launch sensitization campaigns to encourage “local consumption” early.

For all of these countries, despite the advent of clothing from elsewhere such as “jeans”, the inhabitants did not compromise with their customs: they remained in their daily clothing habits by betting on the African loincloth, which symbolizes a whole part of the continent’s tradition. The examples of Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger and Côte d’Ivoire, which have long been fighting for the recognition and popularization of the “African loincloth”, are no longer isolated cases. For Voule Yaovi Akpedze, African fashion designer and stylist specialized in the African loincloth; better known under the name of Fo Kiki “it is up to us Africans to value the loincloth and our traditional fabrics which represent a whole part of the history and culture of our continent.

sensitization campaigns to encourage “local consumption” early. For all of these countries, despite the advent of clothing from elsewhere such as “jeans”, the inhabitants did not compromise with their customs: they remained in their daily clothing habits by betting on the African loincloth, which symbolizes a whole part of the continent’s tradition. The examples of Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger and Côte d’Ivoire, which have long been fighting for the recognition and popularization of the “African loincloth”, are no longer isolated cases. For Voule Yaovi Akpedze, African fashion designer and stylist specialized in the African loincloth; better known under the name of Fo Kiki “it is up to us Africans to value the loincloth and our traditional fabrics which represent a whole part of the history and culture of our continent”. In this environment where more and more Africans want to dress and look like Westerners and with the flooding of our markets with textile from the west, commonly known as “second-hand”, several East African countries since 2016, have undertaken to ban the import of these “used” clothes. Whether Uganda, Tanzania or Rwanda, these three countries have decided to ban trade in clothing imported from Europe or the United States. I

if this policy, which comes into force in 2019, is part of a way to promote African loincloths such as “wax”, it also and above all aims to enable the development of a local textile industry and to ensure self-sufficiency in terms of everyday clothing.

“I consume what I produce”, a stimulus for local production

It is the “I consume what I produce first” policy era in most African countries. The Maghreb and West African countries have not hesitated to make this policy a reality.  Nigeria, which began by prohibiting the import of several basic foodstuffs into the country, understood that this measure was a life-saver for the survival of local industry while allowing it them develop. Moreover, this West African country, the continent’s leading economic power also understood that to encourage local production, an essential vector of economic development, it was necessary to encourage nationals to prioritize local products, “made in Nigeria”. In the beginning, the government had to put a stop to imports of food products such as rice, soap, milk and poultry and had to multiply strategies and aids for local producers, encouraging them to embark on a mass strategy to satisfy local demand.

For Nigerian President Muhammadu Burahi, who emphasizes on the importance of agriculture in the country’s economic policy, things are all set. He announced via a tweet that he has developed a food security program that will provide capital to large food processors to enable them to acquire grains produced by smallholder farmers. The policy which aims at addressing the value chain problems facing agriculture in Nigeria will continue to introduce and implement policies that will support the cultivation and consumption of locally produced food over the next four years. Going further, he also points out that Nigeria will benefit enormously, especially in terms of jobs creation.

President Buhari’s ambition is not only to achieve food self-sufficiency, but also to achieve the modernization of agricultural and local processing techniques, he has signed partnership contracts with other countries on the continent, that are also campaigning for the implementation of this policy on a larger scale, such as Morocco. In another revealing tweet on Morocco’s role in this task, he said: “We are putting the emphasis on agriculture at the next level. In our first mandate, we partnered with Morocco to revive abandoned fertilizer blending plants across the country, and also launched the Anchor Borrowers program: designed to provide cheap credit to small farmers”.

Like Nigeria, several other countries on the continent have announced measures to establish policies to ban the import of certain food products. These include Burkina Faso, Niger and Cameroon, who have recently put in place strict restrictions on imports of these staple foods. In Cameroon’s case, the announcement was made in August 2019 by the Minister of Trade, who at the same time drew up a list of 50 products to be banned from import in order to promote the local industry in a dozen sectors. Without specifying the details or deadlines for the implementation of this forthcoming measure, the Minister nevertheless indicated that, due to the surplus nature of local production, the twelve sectors affected should include paint, metallurgy, cement, industrial packaging, cosmetics, food processing, vegetable oils, palm oil derivatives and brewing industries.

Recently, in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian government has taken positive steps to stimulate local production of prevention/protection products. Indeed, Nigeria through the voice of the Governor of the Central Bank of the country, Godwin Emefiele, decided on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, to ban the importation of hand sanitizers throughout the country. This announcement was made since the recording of a rush to purchase these sanitizers recommended by the WHO to fight against any contamination, especially after the confirmation of the first case of coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa.

Following the lead of the Minister of Trade, the Minister of Finance announced the introduction of appropriate fiscal instruments that could encourage local production and curb “non-essential” imports, as these imports clearly deteriorate the country’s balance of payments. In terms of figures, the information presented by the Cameroonian statistical agency to corroborate this vision of the Ministry of Trade is more than clear. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INS), the country imported 3 405.2 billion CFA francs in 2018. A rate up by 11.5% compared to 2017. This amount represents more than half of Cameroon’s budget in 2019 (CFAF 5,212 billion).

“I consume what I produce”, a boost for the economy of African countries

The measures taken with the ban on the import of food products to African countries are not only in line with the logic of stimulating local production. Moreover, beyond the promotion of “made in Africa”, it is necessary to establish an existing direct correlation between these measures and the economies of these countries. For the most part, they are also in line with a simple logic: it is necessary to boost the economy and fight against the flight of foreign exchange; without forgetting, however, that they will make it possible to promote the diversification of African economies, which are still too dependent on oil exports.

Nigeria’s case is good enough to illustrate this policy. For this country, which imported nearly 3.6 billion dollars in 2019, according to the deputy governor of the Central Bank, Adward Lametek, if the decision to remove access to foreign currency for food importers is officially motivated by “the constant improvement of agricultural production and to help achieve food security”, it also seems to be a response to an economy still faltering and to limit the pressure on the national currency, the Naira, and to preserve its foreign exchange reserves. Indeed, food imports represent for this country significant sums of money. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), they amounted to 640 million dollars in the first quarter of 2019, up by nearly 8% compared to the fourth quarter of 2018 and 28% compared to the first quarter of 2019. Agricultural imports account for just over 6% of the country’s total imports.

In the faced of this economic opportunity, the government believes that purchases made with the local currency should be prioritized over imports, which could undermine the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which have already been badly hit. In the case of the purchase of coronavirus control products and equipment, the Governor of the Central Bank, during a business conference in Abuja, was very clear. “It is in Naira that we will pay to buy disinfectants, rather than using dollars to import disinfectants from China”. Endorsing the decision of the governor of the Central Bank, President Muhammadu Buhari via a tweet from his spokesman, said that, “foreign exchange reserves will be kept and used strictly for the diversification of the economy and not to encourage greater dependence on foreign food import bills”.

These measures put in place by Nigeria can be combined with those already in place in other countries on the continent such as Senegal and Algeria. In the case of Senegal for example, which in 2005 set a ban on the import of poultry into the country until 2020 and renewed it in 2013, the situation is more than flattering. For this sector, which until recently was still very uncertain, the impact of the figures on the country’s economy is more than gratifying. According to data from the Federation of Actors of the Poultry Sector of the country, Senegalese poultry farming created more than 30,000 jobs during this period and has recorded an annual turnover of about 128 billion FCFA, or 17% of the contribution of the animal industry to the country’s GDP. These figures provide an incentive for the implementation of other measures to protect the sector beyond 2020.

In the case of Algeria, which decided to ban the import of an initial list of 359 medicines already manufactured locally in 2008, progress is also notable. In addition to the fact that it has considerably helped the development of national production and the reduction of dependence on foreign countries for medicines, which was estimated at 70%, it has also made it possible to reduce the import bill, which was growing at an annual rate of 20 to 30% each time. According to Mr. Hamed Ayad, Director General of the Central Hospital Pharmacy, this policy has helped to decrease the import bill from 3.7 billion dollars in 2008 to 1.7 billion dollars in 2018; a gain of nearly 2 billion dollars over the decade.

While many analysts have expressed concern about the impact of the implementation of these measures in relation to the establishment of the FTAA, the president of Niger’s consumer rights association, Mahaman Nourri, was anxious to reassure them. In his view, banning these imports does not hinder African free trade, because most of these imported products, as with rice, do not come from Africa, but rather from countries such as Thailand, India, China, Vietnam or Burma.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo credit : google image/illustration

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