Working Papers

Market Access in Africa: A review of existing tariff structures and the road to a Continental Free Trade Area

Market Access in Africa: A review of existing tariff structures and the road to a Continental Free Trade Area

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04 Feb 2015

Author(s): Taku Fundira

Regional integration remains a prominent policy objective for Africa. Its emphasis at continental level was confirmed by the decision of the members of the African Union to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in accordance to the Abuja Treaty. While this is an appealing idea, it is fraught with challenges. Chief of these is the fact that among the existing regional integration communities in Africa, very few have met their commitments by implementing their treaties and protocols. Furthermore, not all countries are signatories to regional trade protocols and even after signing the protocols, trade tariffs and non-tariff barriers still continue to impede intraregional trade.

While challenges exist, what is critical to note is the fact that liberalisation is continuing in Africa, albeit at different rates among different RECs. The objective of this study is to assess the state of liberalisation among African countries both at the multilateral level and at the regional level with the aim of highlighting the challenges that the attainment of a CFTA will face in achieving its goal.

The paper is organised as follows: We begin by looking at the methodology and data concerns in analysing tariff data. This is followed by a section presenting the status of tariff regimes and then we focus on issues related to the achievement of the CFTA itself. Conclusions are then presented. As 53 countries are analysed and in some instances data is not available, we have split the analysis and focused more on the main RECs recognised by the AU for the purposes of this paper. In our view, focusing on these will give clear indications where the gaps exist that require countries to make concessions if a CFTA is to be achieved.

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