Balance between protectionism and market access in South Africa sways to one side


Desire of protectionism remains high in Africa. Findings from a recent survey conducted by Afrobarometer (a pan-African survey research network that conducts evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life in the continent), show considerable resistance among South Africans to free movement and trade. Precisely, 51% of respondents is in favor of protecting domestic producers from foreign competitors against a 45% supporting free cross-border movement.

Interestingly, opposition to free cross-border movement grows in cities (54%) more than in rural areas (44%) and increases with respondents’ education level, reaching 56% among those with post-secondary qualifications. The survey also reveals that 44% of South African citizens consider crossing international borders in Southern Africa as difficult or very difficult. Only 35% say it is easy, while a remaining 20% have not responded.

These results reinforce the findings of a survey published by Afrobarometer about 1 year ago to measure perceptions regarding the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The survey showed that 47% of Africans in the 18 countries analysed were favorable to the introduction or maintenance of protectionist policies in defense of domestic producers, with a trend particularly strong in Southern Africa, while a 41% supported the activation by governments of measures aimed at limiting the cross-border movement of people at borders and at creating barriers to foreign imports.