Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Africa’s clothing trade – trading less amongst ourselves than with other partners?

Trade Reports

Africa’s clothing trade – trading less amongst ourselves than with other partners?

Africa’s clothing trade – trading less amongst ourselves than with other partners?

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Much of the focus for African industrialisation must be on the clothing sector, as this is the classic low-tech and low-wage sector for an industrial base to assist an economy with limited industrial capacity (as in Africa excluding South Africa). We have defined clothing as all the products included in HS Chapters 61, 62 and 63, as these encompass most of what may be construed as clothing.

Outside South Africa, the ITC data shows that for the 2011 and 2012 years (the only complete years providing aggregate African exports) these three chapters represented 1.94% and 1.73% of total African exports to the world. While this pales beside the 69.2% and 70.8% export share from minerals and fuels for the comparable years, it nonetheless contributes a significant portion of the nonagricultural, nonminerals and fuel components of African exports.

This paper concentrates upon the export profile from the continent as well as provide a closer examination from the South African perspective. We note at the outset that analysis of the South African trade and consequently intra-Southern African Customs Union (SACU) trade is hampered by the under- or even non-reporting of the intra-SACU trade; however, we will try to address this problem.

The paper begins with the ‘big picture’, namely trade with the new, old and good friends for both exports and imports before focusing on the individual profiles of the main countries and examining South Africa’s trade in more detail. It is well known that China dominates the clothing import market for the continent while the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) are generally thought of as the major export markets from the continent. However, we would like to test this initial hypothesis against an examination of the intra-African trade to assess where the ‘good friends’ feature.

Our main data sources include the International Trade Centre (ITC), augmented by the commercially obtainable Global Trade Atlas (GTA) trade data for South Africa. Generally, our starting year is 2001 although aggregate African data is only available for 2011 and 2012. Some data is available for 2013 but as it is not, at the date of publication, complete we use it cautiously. In addition, we note that sometimes our data sources do not reconcile and recognise that this is a generic problem when dealing with African trade data. This is complicated by the necessity to often use mirror data (data that is taken from the ‘mirror’ of the trading partner rather than the actual trade data of the country in question).

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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