Intra-African Trade – focusing on trade within Regional Economic Communities
Intra-African trade is low (at 16.7% according to 2016 tralac analysis) compared to intra-regional trade in other parts of the world. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to boost intra-African trade. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) predicts that the AfCFTA has the potential to increase intra-African trade by 52.3% by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced (UNECA 2018). Research has shown that most of the intra-African trade is happening within the African Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
This paper gives an overview of the trade within the eight RECs recognised by the African Union (AU): Arab Maghreb Union (AMU); Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD); Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); East African Community (EAC); Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In assessing intra-REC African trade, it is important to consider the impacts of multiple memberships where bilateral trade occurs between members in more than one REC, which leads to double counting. The authors find that such double counting has amounted to 7% of intra-REC exports and 9% of intra-REC imports since 2001. The analysis in this paper thus offers some insight into the amount of intra-African trade happening outside the RECs.
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