Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Intra-regional merchandise trade within West Africa and between West and East Africa

Working Papers

Intra-regional merchandise trade within West Africa and between West and East Africa

Intra-regional merchandise trade within West Africa and between West and East Africa

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In recent times tralac has published extensively on African trade, with an emphasis on southern and eastern Africa as the Tripartite FTA developed. There has not been a commensurate emphasis on the analysis of trade in the western half of the continent, and the objective for this paper is to remedy that situation and in particular examine the intra-western African trade and the intra East-West African trade.*

There are 23 countries in our definition of west and central Africa (WCA), most of which are members of either or both of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Community of Sahel-Saharan (CEN SAD).

The European Union (EU) has consistently been the main destination for WCA exports, albeit with fluctuations in the export share. Both the BRICs and Africa as a whole (including intra-WCA trade) have been increasing, while the US share has declined dramatically. During 2014 exports from WCA to Africa accounted for some 17.5% of total WCA exports, while the comparable share for WCA imports from Africa was a lower 12.6%. Within this data for WCA trade with Africa we found that the share of Intra-WCA imports in WCA imports from Africa was 75.82% in 2014. West Africa therefore imported more from within its own region than from other outside regions in Africa.

Examining the profile for WCA exports to the world we found that the share of intra-west African export in West African exports to Africa is 72.7% in 2014. This means that again WCA exported more to African countries from within its regions than to other African countries outside WCA. The importance of these intra-WCA exports are variable but have been in the range of 11% to 15% of total exports in recent years. The leading export is, as expected, mineral fuels with a 69.2% of the total intra-West Africa export, followed by ships and related structures. These mineral fuels are exported mainly by Gabon and Nigeria.

A reconciliation exercise gives a somewhat confusing pattern. For 2013 and 2014 overall imports are only 62% and 60% of the comparable import data. Much of this difference can be found in the mineral fuels data, although the category of ships and related vessels leaves much of the data unexplained.

* This paper was prepared during a tralac ‘Geek Week’ data training workshop during the week of October 5 to 9, 2015.


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Intra-regional merchandise trade within West Africa and between West and East Africa - Author(s): Sun Zhina, Ron Sandrey and Yolanda Potelwa

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