African countries import $50b worth of processed food – Stephen Karingi

African countries are said to be importing about $50 billion worth of processed food and this amount is projected to reach $150 billion by 2030, Stephen Karingi of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has said.

Making a presentation on November 24, 2011, the final day of the three-day Africa Economic Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he gave some statistics that painted a gloomy picture of intra-Africa trade.

According to him, out of every $100 that Africa uses to finance its development  $80 comes from trade, however, only $8 of this amount comes from intra-Africa trade.

He therefore called on African countries to look at how the continent can increase the dollars that come from regional trade.

“Africa has a negative trade balance on basic food, and chemicals, it is only for natural resources type of exports that Africa has a trade surplus, Africa imports about $50 billion worth of processed food and agric products,” he said.

He said two out of every three African countries make it difficult for their neighbours to trade with them than they do with the rest of the world.

“There are lots’ of barriers, tariff and non-tariff,” Karingi said.

He indicated that intra-Africa trade is being limited in its ability to help Africa finance its development and that is making it difficult for African countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

He therefore urged that the African market should be enlarged.

According to him, the current average value of 10% intra-Africa trade can be increased if tariffs are removed, infrastructure is improved to make it possible for the easy movement of goods and the time involved in crossing borders is reduced.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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