Building capacity to help Africa trade better

African Trade Statistics Yearbook 2017


African Trade Statistics Yearbook 2017

African Trade Statistics Yearbook 2017

Trade in Africa has become one of the driving forces of integration on the continent. In 2012, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting lntra-Africa Trade.

Consequently, the need for reliable and exhaustive statistics on external trade of the African Union Member States, preferably derived from data provided by the countries themselves, has also grown rapidly.

The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union. While this political process is ongoing, the transition situation on the continent is diverse as there are several stakeholders such as Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Customs Unions and Monetary Unions. Producing trade data that serve all purposes is difficult.

In this context, harmonised and high quality data of trade statistics play an important role for trade negotiations and constitute an essential source of information for balance of payments statistics, national accounts and economic studies. Beyond that, the compilation of trade aggregates for the whole of the AU is a first step towards harmonisng of practices and methodologies for trade statistics across Member States.

In June 2016, the Assembly of the African Union furthermore decided in Kigali to finance AU activities from the contributions of Member States based on an extra imports levy (0.2%). To implement this decision, the availability of intra and extra trade data has become an imperative both for the AUC and for the African countries. These data on trade statistics will also be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures taken by African leaders to boost Intra African trade, which has a strong impact on the economic development of the entire continent.

Therefore, the African Union Commission (AUC), in collaboration with Eurostat, has for the first time published a Time Series of Annual Trade Data for the period from 2010 to 2016. The Statistics Division at the AUC (AUSTAT) compiled data provided by the NSOs of Member States or other institutions responsible for the production and dissemination of trade statistics in Africa and estimated the data when it was not possible to collect data directly from Member States. The joint endeavour was supported by experts contributing through the Pan African Statistics (PAS) programme, funded by the European Union.

These data were almost fully stem from AU Member States themselves and thus are authentic but the reader should be aware that, due to the urgent need for such data, international organizations proceed for the estimation of their own data. The most common source of data is UN COMTRADE which is a repository of official international trade statistics and relevant analytical tables provided by United Nations. The AUC plans to continue with this new publication and will then enrich its metadata, intensify its validation efforts and improve its reconcilliation with other data sources.

The publication presents data about international trade in goods only. Intra and extra-AU trade in goods data are collected by the customs authorities and are based on the records of trade transactions in customs declarations. Goods for and after processing are included, whereas goods in transit are excluded from both trade systems. Exports include re-exports and imports include re-imports.

Short overview of African Union trade development

The whole of the African Union (AU-55) accounts for approximately 3% of the world’s trade in goods valued in USD. During the period 2010-2016, AU annual exports and imports were fairly stable (at around 500 billion of USD), its imports slightly exceedng exports in the most recent years. The trade balance up to 2012 was positive. The ratio of goods exports/goods imports has however changed over the period: in 2010, the AU was a net exporter (the ratio of exports over imports reached 103%), whereas in 2016 it became a net importer (the ratio of exports over imports reached 74%). Among countries the main net exporters in 2016 were Angola (ratio 265%), Gabon (ratio 162%), Côte d’Ivoire (ratio 127%), and Botswana (ratio 121%).

In 2016, the three major African importers (Egypt, South Africa and Algeria) and three major exporters (South Africa, Nigeria and Angola) accounted together for 39% of total AU imports and exports.

Intra African trade is very important for the economic development and integration of the continent. However, the share of Intra African trade in Africa’s total imports and exports remains rather low: on average 13% for intra-imports and 17% for intra exports over the period of the last seven years. While the value of total exports decreased, the share of intra-exports trade increased by 30 % in 2016 in comparison with 2010.

Extra African trade makes up more than 80% of the total trade. The volume of extra exports and extra imports are similar: on average 450 billion USD for exports and 490 billion USD for imports.

The main player in Intra African trade is South Africa, with a share in intra exports which varies from 27 to 30% over the period of 7 years. It is followed by Nigeria (8%) and Gabon (7%). South Africa is also a leader for intra imports (13%), followed by Botswana (8%) and Namibia (8%).

The main product group in total African imports and exports are mineral fuels and mineral oils (HS 27). However, these products are more significant in exports: the share of mineral oils reached 57% of total exports in 2012 and decreased to 34% in 2016. Decreasing oil market prices and trade in mineral products had a crucial impact on the decline of exports between 2012 and 2016.

Although the majority of African exports is sent to non-African countries, the global product structure for extra and intra exports are similar: the two dominant product groups are mineral fuels and oils (HS27) and natural and cultured pearls (HS71), accounting together for 21 % for extra exports and 30% for intra exports. However, extra exports are more diversified with agricultural products: edible fruits and nuts (2.6%), cocoa and cocoa preparation (2.4%), products of animal origin (1.3%), coffee, tea, spices (1.2%), fish and crustaceans (1.1%).

As for imports, mineral fuels and oils (HS27) accounted for 12% of total imports in 2016 with the majority being imported from non-AU Member States. Mineral fuels are followed by machinery and mechanical appliances (HS 84), electrical machinery and equipment’s, sound recorders and reproducers (HS85) and vehicles (HS87). These three product groups made up 29% of extra-AU imports and 14% of intra imports. Within extra-AU imports the second most important product group was cereals (HS10) (5%), while within intra trade it was sugars and sugar confectionery (HS17) (6%).

For the period 2010-2016, China remained by far the most important AU trading partner accounting in 2016 for 13% of extra-AU exports and 17% of extra-AU imports. The value of goods imported from France, Germany and United States made up approximately 6% for each.

The largest destination markets for AU goods, after China, are India and the United States, accounting for 7% of extra African exports each, followed by France, Spain and Italy (6% each).

The African Union Trade Statistics Yearbook is the result of a close collaboration between the African Union Commission (AUC), the Regional Economic Communities (REC) and the National Statistical Offices (NSOs).


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