Trade Briefs

Market Access Patterns in Africa: Assessing Similarities and Differences

Market Access Patterns in Africa: Assessing Similarities and Differences

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27 Oct 2019

Author(s): John Stuart

This trade brief applies several unsupervised statistical learning methodologies to determine the extent to which the nations of Africa converge (or diverge) in terms of their non-preferential trade regimes. This investigation is important because it can shed light on the viability of increased regional integration in Africa, and specifically the African Continental Free Trade Area. Where trade regimes diverge, there is a greater likelihood that trade-deflection (or ‘transhipment’) will destabilise a free trade area. By conducting the distance analysis at a bilateral (or inter-country) level, far greater insights can be obtained than by simply looking at gross measures of divergence.

The analysis reveals that at present, only the members of the two customs unions – the EAC and SACU – show a meaningful amount of convergence in their trade-weighted MFN trade regimes. The nations of ECOWAS are less divergent than SADC, whereas COMESA is the most divergent of the RECs that were analysed.

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