Analytical Note, November 2010

Sub-Saharan Africa’s Exports Trends and the EPAs.

Trade trends are changing quite rapidly for Africa. A careful analysis of Africa’s export statistics reveals startling facts regarding the markets that are most important for Africa today, and in the years to come.

  1. As a whole, Europe remains the largest export market for sub-Saharan Africa. However, Africa’s exports to the intra-African market are growing at a much faster pace than exports to the EU market.
  2. For some sub-regions and countries, e.g. the East African Community as well as countries such as Zambia, Senegal, Kenya, the intra-African market is already the larger market for their exports than the EU market.
  3. Africa has been and remains the much larger market for sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) manufactured exports than the EU. If SSA countries are aiming to move up the industrial ladder and diversify their trade, the African market, not so much the EU market, is the most promising export destination.
  4. The quality of sub-Saharan Africa’s trade to the EU is questionable. 90% of exports to the EU (excluding South Africa’s exports) are by way of fuels and other primary products, only 10% are manufactured exports.

If Africa is to grow its industrial capacities, its most promising market is its own intra-African market, which absorbs the bulk of its manufactured exports. In contrast, Africa’s exports to EU are mainly oil, gas, minerals / raw materials, fish and flowers.

The intra-African market, however, is at risk of being taken over by products from the EU, should African countries sign and implement the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU.


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