Economic Commission for Africa makes documentary on intra-African trade at borders

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is filming for a documentary on how intra-African trade works at major borders between countries across the continent.

According to officials at the ECA, they are “aiming for a snapshot of trade from the perspective of ordinary traders” and see if such models can revamp trading among African countries.

The filming crew is currently at Chirundu on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. The border post is a 2.5 hour drive from Lusaka, Zambia.

They will also make a trip to the popular Aflao-Lome border shared by Ghana and Togo to film from March 19 to 23, 2012.

Intra-African trade was the main agenda at the recently held 18th African Union Summit of Heads of State in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

According to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Donald Kaberuka, lack of political will is slowing infrastructure projects hence negating intra-Africa trade growth. He said this at the 18th AU Summit.

Indeed a World Bank report titled ‘De-Fragmenting Africa: Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services’, painted a gloomier picture of intra-African trade, saying the continent is losing billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of high trade barriers with neighbouring countries.

The report shows that it is easier for Africa to trade with the rest of the world than with itself. It pointed out that the new World Bank forecasts suggesting that economic slowdown in the Eurozone could shave Africa’s growth by up to 1.3 percentage points this year, and as a result, regional fragmentation could become even more costly for the continent.

Statistics on Africa’s share of global trade is said to be depressing and even more dismal.

During a conference of statisticians from across Africa in Cape Town, South Africa in January, a presentation by Simon Mevel of the Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division (RITD) of the ECA on the statistics  of trade globally, showed Africa lagging behind.

The figures show that in the year 2000, Africa’s share of global trade was 2.3% and in 2010 it stood at 3.0%.

According to  the 2010 International Trade Statistics of the World Trade Organization compared to other regions,intra-African trade is low.

For instance in 2009, intra-European trade was 72%, intra-Asian trade stood at 52% and intra-North American trade was 48%.

Intra-South and Central American trade was 26% but intra-African trade was 11%.

Africa produces large amounts of raw materials, which are exported as primary products.

The data shows that the high concentration of African exports in primary products are made up of agricultural and food products, 9.4%, primary products 36.43, 35.4% are other industrial products and 18.9 of services.

The biggest challenge to intra-African trade available statistics show is the imposition of high tariffs which is a barrier to trade. Compared to the other parts of the world, higher tariffs prevail within the continent.

Statistics provided by Mevel shows that Ad Valorem Equivalent Tariff between Africa and Africa is 8.7%. It is 3.2% between the Rest of the World and the Rest of the World, while the tariffs between the World and the World stands at 3.4%, making trade within the continent among African countries much more difficult than between the continent and the rest of the world.

And according to the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC)  of the same ECA, global trade (in current prices) has increased from $13 trillion in 2000 to an estimated $30 trillion in 2010, but Africa’s share in world trade has been in decline since 1980 and currently stands at about three per cent.

This has led the World Bank and the African Union Commission (AUC) to hold a joint-meeting on how the continent can boost its intra-African trade.

The meeting which took place in Addis Ababa January 31, 2012 on the heels of the 18th AU Summit reviewed ways and means of enhancing and maximizing the effectiveness of the World Bank’s support for the AU and Africa in boosting trade.

“Issues discussed at the meeting included: sub-regional and regional integration and trade; capacity building; agriculture and food security; funding; and mechanisms for the Bank’s support to the Commission,” said the World Bank in a statement.

The AfDB and the World Customs Organisation have also signed an agreement to boost Africa’s intra-trade.

Meanwhile, the ECA says it will by the end of March release the Economic Report on Africa 2012 themed – Unleashing Africa’s Potential as a New Pole of Global Growth.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi & Ekow Quandzie

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