Experts seek improved trade facilitation, export diversification among African economiesPosted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 by Olajuwon, Bola (The Guardian, Lagos) in News
Senior trade officials from African Union (AU) member states, research and development institutions, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and international organisations met in Addis Ababa over the weekend, emphasising the need for improved trade facilitation, export diversification to boost intra-African economic growth and co-operation.
At the parley with the theme, Regional Workshop on Export Diversification and Trade Facilitation, organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Mr. Stephen Karingi, director, Regional Integration and Trade Division, spoke the minds of experts at the gathering.
He lamented that “while there is general consensus that trade can be an important engine of growth for Africa, many African countries continue to encounter considerable infrastructure and other supply-side constraints.”
According to Karingi, the 18th AU Summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2012, agreed an Action Plan for boosting intra-African trade and to see the share of trade within African economies double within the next 10 years.
He noted that the key to this Action Plan is “the need to move away from heavy reliance on traditional primary commodities for export.”
Referring to studies by World Trade Organisation, Karingi said that the exports of the continent as a whole are considerably concentrated in a few products and directed towards a small number of markets.
Also, he said studies by the ECA show “a higher volume of exports for more sophisticated goods between African countries, compared to African exports to the rest of the world.”
He explained that in 2010, 43 per cent of African exports to Africa were in manufactured goods compared to 22 per cent of African exports to rest of the world, a trend he noted, has important policy implications for Africa’s industrial policy with regard to the manufacturing sector that can lead to higher export diversification if better supported.
Karingi underscored the importance of improving trade facilitation, which he said could be done by simplifying the trade relationship between trading partners to ensure that Intra-African trade is undeterred.
“Clearance times of exports and imports at the ports for a sea cargo in Africa is 10.1 days, compared with 2.1 days, while only 30 per cent of the African road network is paved,” said Karingi.