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Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Topics publications: Data analysis and statistics

Trade Reports

Identifying Patterns in Business Environment Challenges Faced by Female-Owned Businesses in Africa

This trade report explores the business environment challenges faced by female-owned businesses in Africa using several data clustering approaches. By analysing World Bank enterprise survey data, we identify six distinct policy clusters among African countries based on priority policy areas. The clusters reveal significant regional patterns and unique country-specific challenges, emphasising issues such as access to finance, electricity supply, political instability, and competition from the informal sector. The findings highlight the need for tailored policy interventions and regional cooperation to address both common and unique challenges.

Trade Briefs

Gender, Value Chains and PTA Utilisation in SADC: Synthesis Trade Brief

Achieving the empowerment of female entrepreneurs through value chain development under the AfCFTA has been the focus of a collection of tralac research over the past two years, and the gender element remains in focus. This trade brief extends the analysis by focusing on a specific regional economic community (REC) and one which is also a preferential trade area (PTA): the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The examination of a functioning PTA, in which there is already a high level of preferential trade, offers important lessons for the continental arrangements, especially since the RECs are regarded as the ‘building blocks’ of the AfCFTA. This trade brief explores three databases: industrial sectoral data of female employment, World Bank gendered enterprise survey data, and tralac’s own gendered value chain survey data of 559 enterprises. This data is used to draw insights on female employment patterns by sector, gendered potential value chain involvement, and sector and gendered PTA utilisation patterns by sector.

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 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 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 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.

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