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Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Topics publications: Data analysis and statistics

Trade Reports

South Africa’s 2023 Global Trade Update

This trade report provides a trade data analysis of South Africa’s trading relationship with Africa; the European Union (EU); the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, and China, plus 6 new members: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE); the European Free Trade Area (EFTA); the United States (US); and the United Kingdom (UK). South Africa trades under preferences with some of these partners, but not all. The analysis covers the the full year 2023.

Trade Reports

Africa’s Trade Liberalisation and Intra-Africa Trade Performance: 10-year Review

This Trade Report presents an update on the state of trade liberalisation and intra-Africa trade. It highlights the state of trade liberalisation in Africa, focusing on intra-Africa trade, followed by REC-specific trade. Trade data in Africa is not always accurate as some countries do not report their trade data, in which case mirror data is used. But with many non-reporting countries, this becomes problematic. Therefore, the analysis provided here should be considered as indicative of trading patterns. It is worth noting that overlapping membership within RECs can result in double counting when analysing REC-level data. However, this analysis does provide insights into the state of tariff liberalisation and the increasing trade among the RECs.

Trade Reports

Gender, Value Chains and MSMEs in Africa: Exploring Primary Survey Data for the Pharmaceuticals Sector

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This Trade Report explores the nature of the pharmaceuticals sector in Africa specifically from the perspective of medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), utilising a new set of primary field survey-collected data. This is done by firstly considering the background relating to value chains at the global and regional chains in general, the current, post Covid-19 context and importance in terms of the AfCFTA process. Thereafter the paper directly explores the data by profiling its dimensions and then analysing patterns of enterprise female ownership, trade relationships and trade direction, as well as patterns of self-reported value chain ‘position’ in terms of the most important dimensions in the data.

Trade Reports

Gender, Value Chains and MSMEs in Africa: Exploring Primary Survey Data for the Clothing, Textiles & Leather Sector

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This Trade Report explores the nature of the clothing, textiles & leather sector (CTL) sector in Africa specifically from the perspective of medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), utilising a new set of primary field survey-collected data. This is done by firstly considering the background relating to value chains at the global and regional chains in general, the current, post Covid-19 context and importance in terms of the AfCFTA process. Thereafter the paper directly explores the data by profiling its dimensions and then analysing patterns of enterprise female ownership, trade relationships and trade direction, as well as patterns of self-reported value chain ‘position’ in terms of the most important dimensions in the data.

Trade Reports

Gender, Value Chains and MSMEs in Africa: Exploring Primary Survey Data for the Agribusiness Sector

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This Trade Report explores the nature of the agribusiness sector in Africa specifically from the perspective of medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), utilising a new set of primary field survey-collected data. This is done by firstly considering the background relating to value chains at the global and regional chains in general, the current, post Covid-19 context and importance in terms of the AfCFTA process. Thereafter the paper directly explores the data by profiling its dimensions and then analysing patterns of enterprise female ownership, trade relationships and trade direction, as well as patterns of self-reported value chain ‘position’ in terms of the most important dimensions in the data.

Trade Reports

Gender, Value Chains and MSMEs in Africa: Exploring Primary Survey Data for the Cosmetics & Personal Care Sector

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This Trade Report explores the nature of the cosmetics & personal care sector in Africa specifically from the perspective of medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), utilising a new set of primary field survey-collected data. This is done by firstly considering the background relating to value chains at the global and regional chains in general, the current, post Covid-19 context and importance in terms of the AfCFTA process. Thereafter the paper directly explores the data by profiling its dimensions and then analysing patterns of enterprise female ownership, trade relationships and trade direction, as well as patterns of self-reported value chain ‘position’ in terms of the most important dimensions in the data.

Trade Briefs

Introducing tralac’s Value Chain Database

The mapping of cross-border value chain flows between countries and regions can be of much assistance in understanding trade and production relationships. Cross-border value chains are flows of value between countries where ‘originating’ countries provide intermediate value to ‘exporting’ countries, which finally export the value. Analysing the relationships between originating and exporting countries, by sector, can assist in understanding the impacts of trade and industrial policy, as well as assist in designing new policy and extracting benefits from trade relationships such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

This Trade Brief introduces tralac’s value chain database; a million-row, stacked sector-country value chain database adapted from UNCTAD-Eora data, with originating and exporting country flows. The brief presents concepts relating to GVC data before describing the database itself, followed by some examples of possible applications of the database.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

Some Applications of tralac’s Value Chain Database

Cross-border value chains are a form of trade in which intermediate value (whether product or service) passes from one country to another, to be beneficiated by the recipient country either for final export or export as beneficiated intermediate product. Since cross-border value chain participation allows specialisation of a component of the production process, without mastery of the entire production process, it is a potential entry point by developing countries into manufacturing activity that results in value-adding industrialisation. For this reason, analysing within the data can lead valuable insights about the potential entry points into value chains both between peers (typically regional value chains) and hierarchically (typically global value chains).

This brief follows on from a previous brief entitled ‘Introducing tralac’s value chain database’ (Stuart 2023). It is intended to showcase several applications of the use of the database, when integrated with additional data dimensions such as REC membership, sub-region, development status (LDC or not), export speciality, revealed comparative advantage (RCA) and export diversification. The data can be used to gain insights into trade and industrial policy formulation and implementation, especially in light of the unfolding African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Briefs

Emerging markets – a ten-year review of the BRICS trading relationship

From the 22nd – 24th of August 2023, the BRICS, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, held its 15th Summit in South Africa. This was the third time South Africa hosted the group. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) was initially formed with a focus on foreign investment strategies and held its 1st formal Summit in 2009. South Africa joined the group in 2010, and together, they became synonymous with fast-growing emerging economies. These emerging markets currently represent 43% of the world’s population and a third of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). The BRICS countries, which in the early 2000s were considered to be the fastest growing economies, have not maintained this performance. Brazil, Russia, and South Africa’s economic growth has been sluggish, averaging less than 1% annually since 2013, while India and especially China experienced annual GDP growth rates of over 6% during the same period. The commodity shocks experienced in 2014/2015 had an impact on the economic growth trajectories of commodity-dependent member states such as Brazil, Russia, and South Africa. Furthermore, the BRICS differ considerably in demographic, economic, military, and political terms as well as in terms of their regional and global ambitions. Despite their unique characteristics, these nations must prioritize diversifying their economies and increasing the involvement of the private sector.

This Trade Brief provides an update on the trading relationship between the BRICS countries over the past decade with specific focus on South Africa’s position and performance. Additionally, it explores the development of the BRICS bloc and emerging issues, including the role of the New Development Bank (NDB), the expansion of the bloc, and the proposed currency as an alternative to the US dollar in international trade. The report concludes with a summary of its findings.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

Trade Reports

South Africa’s ITAC Investigations 2022 – Post Covid-19 Update

The Trade Law Centre (tralac) in 2014 began monitoring and reporting on an annual basis the International Trade Administration’s (ITAC) tariffs and trade remedies investigations. The ITAC Act of 2002 and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Agreement, (2002) mandates ITAC to establish and manage an efficient and effective system for the administration of international trade for South Africa and on behalf of other SACU members (i.e., Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini). ITAC has conducted almost 200 investigations that tralac has monitored and reported since 2014, with most applications requesting tariff support largely in response to relatively low-priced imports mainly from emerging economies, such as China, Brazil, and India.

The objective of this Trade Report is to provide the latest information on investigations undertaken by ITAC for the 2021/2022 period. ITAC investigations cover primarily ordinary customs duties (applications for increasing or reducing import tariffs and rebates), trade remedies, and import and export control measures. It is important to note that ITAC investigations and decisions are informed by South Africa’s trade and industrial policy and that industrial policy inform trade policy. For this analysis, as in previous reports, import and export control investigations are excluded and therefore only focusses on tariff and trade remedies investigations and reports.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

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