Earlier in August, the border between Nigeria and Benin was closed as part of a Nigerian border crackdown on smuggling from Benin. The border closure was part of Nigeria’s plan to spur the development of local industries by halting the importation of prohibited goods. Smuggled rice from Asia is a major point of contention. Nigeria has made significant investments in developing local rice production, but officials say these efforts are undermined by smuggling from Benin.
While Nigeria’s hard line stand seems well intentioned, it has had deep ramifications on regional trade and has negatively impacted downstream activities across the entire region. This is initiative has surfaced deep issues in the implementation of ECOWAS trade policy; including the fact that for the smooth functioning of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme, the Nigerian and Beninois customs authorities must cooperate, including through joint customs and operations at the border. Are there enough capital and political will to truly support such liberalization? What could we anticipate for the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in 2020?