Trade among African countries is extremely low, hovering around 15% compared to Europe (59%), Asia (51%), and North America (37%).
This has been blamed largely on lack of access to trade and market information.
Some African countries are, however, reversing the trend in intra-African trade, according to research by the South African Research Survey.
In terms of countries that have contributed greatly to intra-African trade during 2017, South Africa came on tops, contributing 26 per cent.
This was followed by Namibia, which contributed six per cent. Nigeria came in the third position with 4.5 per cent.
The Senior Manager of African Export-Import Bank (Afrexibank), Gainmore Zanamwe, presented these statistics during the opening of the third annual SADC Industrialisation Week in Windhoek.
He said that overall, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) members contributed 20 per cent to intra-African trade last year, with the following countries featuring in the top ten: Zambia, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.
Zanamwe was, however, quick to add that these figures could be better, as trade within Africa is still low as compared to other regions.
“So we still have a big challenge as Africa. Only countries that managed to increase intra-regional trade managed to transform their economies and developed, hence we need to take a closer look at our policies and trade facilitation, not as individual countries but as a continent and regionally,” he was quoted by news site New Era.
He added that “SADC is not doing bad compared to the other regions, but intra-regional trade is still very low. We need to increase it, even though things are not rosy from an inter-regional perspective.”
Zanamwe further urged African countries to examine areas such as infrastructure, border post clearing, and trade facilitation issues to ensure effective development and improvement in value chains.
“Those are critical elements that one cannot choose to ignore. You also need to look at standards, as the markets that you are supplying would want you to comply to certain standards, as you would not be able to penetrate the value chain and jeopardise intra-African trade,” he said.
In recent years, intra-African trade has not only been about the trade in goods and services as the scope of this trade has been broadened to include informal cross-border trade, according to an analysis by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
The move is to enable the Bank to design special products and dedicate resources to formalize this trade.
As part of efforts to reverse the challenges in trading among African countries, Afreximbank has also decided to convene the Intra-African Trade Fair every two years to “provide trade and market information and connect buyers and sellers from across the continent.”