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Intra-African trade – an analysis

Trade Reports

Intra-African trade – an analysis

Intra-African trade – an analysis

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This paper clearly reinforces the data warning outlining the dangers inherent in trying to analyse intra-African trade data. The use of mirror data, late and non-reporting and ‘vanishing’ trade has been the bane of this research; we must therefore emphasise that this paper is far from being a definitive analysis of intra-African trade. We must also emphasise, however, that the ITC is the best available source of consistent trade data and this paper represents a systematic attempt to use the available data to start shedding light on intra-African trade.

Over the last few years the aggregate intra-African trade’s (imports and exports) share of total African trade has consistently been around the 12% mark (with a high of 14% in 2009) as shares from both the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are dramatically declining in the face of increasing Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) trade.

Using the ITC direct and mirror data for imports we found that the main intra-African exporters are South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. At the HS 2 Chapter level imports are headed by mineral fuels, ships and related equipment, general machinery, vehicles and electrical machinery, but according to the mirror data we have brought trading in precious stones and metals into the top bracket for later analysis.

By combining direct and mirror data the main intra-African exporters are South Africa, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Egypt, By HS products the main exports are fuels, ships, precious stones and metals, general machinery, vehicles, and electrical equipment.

Reconciliation of intra-African data clearly exposes the significant problems inherent in such an exercise and leaves us still seeking the truth in numerous places. There are several main data problems: (a) non-reporting where the mirror data is often used in place of direct data and, of course when neither party reports its data the mirror is non-existent; (b) the penchant for South Africa not to report gold trading and, at least until recently, poor intra-Southern African Customs Union (SACU) reporting; and (c) the suspected confusion of re-exports in at least vessels and related equipment and vehicles.

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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