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Africa Trade Development and Statistics

An Overview of African Trade Development And Statistics

African Trade

In Africa, trade has become one of the driving forces of integration on the continent. The Heads of State and Government of the African Union adopted a decision to establish an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and endorsed the action plan on boosting intra-Africa Trade. As a result, the need for credible and exhaustive statistics on the external trade of African countries has grown massively.

In this context harmonized and high-quality trade statistics data become very important to support trade negotiations. There is a need to get comprehensive, detailed, and reliable statistics on merchandise trade within Africa. Moreover, detailed Intra and Extra African trade statistics are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures taken by Africans to boost Intra African trade, which has a high impact on the economic development of the continent.

The African Union (its 55 Member States) accounts for around 3% of the world’s trade in goods. During the period 2013-2019, the AU trade annual exports and imports had both first a decreasing trend between 2013 and 2016 and an increasing trend afterward, with imports exceeding exports over the observed period. Consequently, the trade balance from 2013 up to 2019 was negative. The ratio of goods exports/ goods imports decreased from 92.5 in 2013 to 83.1% in 2019. The major net exporters in 2019 were Angola (ratio 261.3%), Congo (ratio 242.3%), Libya (ratio 217.6%), and Gabon (ratio 199.9%). In 2019, three major African importers (South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria) and three major exporters (South Africa, Nigeria, and Angola) accounted respectively, for 39% of AU imports and 40% of total AU exports.

Strengthening intra-African trade is very important for the economic development and integration of the continent. However, the share of Intra African trade remains low: on average 13% for intra-imports and 20% for intra-exports over the last seven years. The value of total intra-African exports decreased and the share of intra- exports and trade increased slightly (from 18.2% in 2013 to 19.6% in 2019).

Extra African trade makes up more than 80% of the total trade. The extra-AU trade balance is negative over the period followed, with an average of 372 billion US dollars for exports and 495 billion US dollars for imports.

The major player in intra-African trade is South Africa, with shares in intra-exports varying from 26 to 31% over seven years, followed by Nigeria (13.9% in 2019), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (7% in 2019). South Africa is a leader in intra-imports (14%) as well, followed by Namibia (7%) and Botswana (6%).

Major Products

The major product group in African imports and exports is mineral fuels and mineral oils, however, these products are more significant in exports: the share of mineral oils in exports in 2013 reached 53% of total exports and decreased to 40% in 2019. Therefore, the export of mineral products has a high impact on African economies. The decrease in oil market prices and trade in mineral products had a major impact on the decline of exports from 2013 to 2019. Although the majority of African exports go to extra African countries, the global product structure for extra and intra-exports is similar: the dominant product groups are mineral fuels and oils accounting for 44% of extra-exports and 20% of intra-exports in 2019. In imports, mineral fuels and mineral oils accounted for 15% in 2019 and the majority of it was imported from extra AU countries. For the period concerned, China remains by far the major African Union’s trading partner accounting in 2019, for 16% of extra African exports and 19% of extra African imports. The value of goods imported from India, the United States of America (USA), and France makes up approximately 6% of each. The largest destination markets for AU goods after China, are India (8% of extra African exports in 2019), Spain and France (7%), Italy, and the United States accounting for around 6% each for 2019.

In 2020, intra-Africa was down to 16%, mainly attributed to COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions. Total intra-Africa trade in 2020 was USD 61 billion, having declined over the last 5 years. The top intra-Africa exporters ranking by country shares in 2020 were, South Africa (32%), Nigeria (10%), DRC (8%), Egypt (6%), Zimbabwe (4%), and for the rest of Africa (40%). Also, the top most traded product goods were mineral products, chemical products, food and beverages, base metals, machinery, transport equipment, vegetable products, precious stones, plastic products and textiles, and clothing.

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