Intra-REC trade and overlapping membership: review of COMESA, EAC and SADC
This paper analyses trade between the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the African Economic Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) using trade data from the International Trade Centre (ITC). The data is generally ranked by 2013 as that is the most consistently and seemingly comprehensive reporting available.
Examining each REC in turn we find that both Rwanda and Uganda export around half of their totals to COMESA, with DRC and Burundi around 20%, Zambia and Malawi around 15% and the rest below this figure. Libya with less than 0.5% is the outlier. Within the EAC, Kenya is the largest intra-EAC exporter with a share that varies around one-half while Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania have similar shares of around 15% to 20%. Rwanda reports that some 72% of its exports were destined for EAC during 2013, but the data for other years varies significantly. As expected, South Africa dominates the intra-SADC exports with a share around 50% to 60%.
Next is a group of eight members with shares that are all generally grouped between 3% and 8%. By shares of exports destined for SADC, Zimbabwe reports that over 90% of its exports are in this category, and both Swaziland and Namibia report around 50% to 60%. Angola, like fellow oil exporter Libya in COMESA, has a very low share of around 3% only destined for SADC.
Overlapping memberships are a major feature of the RECs, and we must be careful to assess the overall impact of these to avoid double-counting intra-REC trade. We have taken two subcategories of each REC: (a) ‘pure’ trade entails intra-REC trade that excludes trade counted as intra-regional trade in another REC as both partners are members in common of another REC, whereas (b) ‘geographical’ trade entails all REC members which are arbitrarily assigned to their logical geographical regions. Pure trade is a subset of the full data while geographical trade in turn is a subset of pure trade.
There are, of course, several issues related to these definitions that suggest that we are taking an almost naive approach but this approach does highlight the overlapping issue. We have only assessed exports under these definitions, and ‘pure’ entails only intra-REC trade.
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