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Africa Border Closures – An Insult to the Continent’s Integration Efforts?

Months after the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was launched in Niamey, during a Heads of State and Government meeting, border closures are making headlines in the continent.

Nigeria is the latest African nation to close its borders, following similar actions by Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan in recent months.

The borders have been closed for various reasons including diplomatic disputes, security concerns, health precautions and economic considerations among others.

Nigeria’s case especially can be seen as an insult to the continent’s integration efforts, as they just launched the operational phase of the AfCFTA which seeks to provide the free movement of goods and persons across African countries.

On Tuesday Nigeria’s customs agency said, the nation has closed its land borders to all movement of goods and has no timeline for reopening them.

The Customs service disclosed that, the move was made as part of an effort to curb smuggling of rice and other goods.

When Nigeria signed up the agreement in July, experts said AfCFTA’s dream of increasing intra-Africa trade, which currently lags behind the volume of trade the continent does with Europe, was a step closer.

A couple of African nations that have closed their borders this year.

Last month, Sudan closed its borders with Libya and the Central African Republic, for security reasons.

In June this year, Kenya closed its border with Somalia, and suspended cross border trade, as part of security operations against terrorist group Al Shabaab.

While many countries have heeded the World Health Organisation (WHO) call not to close borders in the wake of the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities in Rwanda closed their border for several hours.

Although Ethiopians and Eritreans have celebrated the re-opening of their borders, President Isaias Afwerki’s government closed border points at Serha-Zalambesa, Bure – Assab and Om Hajer-Humera, without giving its neighbour any official explanations.

Equally in August, authorities in Cameroon expressed concerns over plans by Equatorial Guinea to build a wall along their shared border, with Equatorial Guinea accusing Cameroon of letting West Africans enter its territory illegally.

Implementing free movement of goods and persons in Africa now, could be a huge task as many nations are grappling with economic and political instability.

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