Lilongwe – Findings of a UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) assessment report on progress made on regional integration in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic indicates that countries in the continent continue to trade more with the outside world than among themselves.
According to the report, the European Union is taking the largest share of the market, accounting for 29.8 percent of Africa’s trade in 2018. The trend is changing following Brexit and increasing Sino-Africa trade.
“In 2018, Africa accounted for only 2.6 percent of global trade which is a slight increase from 2.2 percent from 2017. Intra-African trade increased to 16.1 percent in 2018 (US$159.1 billion) up from 15.5 percent in 2017. Globally, output slightly decreased to 3.6 percent in 2018 from 3.8 percent in 2017,” the report says.
The report presents an assessment of progress on regional integration with particular focus on progress made by regional economic communities in macroeconomic integration, productive integration, trade integration, infrastructure integration, free movement of people, and governance, peace and security.
Presenting the report at the 39th ECA Committee of Experts of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development last week, ECA director (regional integration and trade) Mr Stephen Karingi said COVID-19 had severely disrupted implementation of regional integration initiatives, including the African Continental Free Trade Area.
He said, “Implementation of regional integration continues to be hampered by governance, peace and security challenges. Digitalisation is key in maintaining trade competitiveness and enabling effective participation in cross border e-commerce.”
Mr Karingi said progress on integration was uneven.
“Most of the communities are lagging in terms of intra-regional intermediate exports and imports and are recording a very low merchandise trade complementarity index, productive integration was central to enhancing industrialisation and trade.
“Productive integration is also critical to integrating African economies into regional value chains and global value chains as envisioned in agenda 2063,” he said.
The report says the Arab Maghreb Union and East African Community lead in productive integration, while ECOWAS is the least integrated in this regard. The Economic Community of Central African States and EAC are the highest performing communities in terms of macroeconomic integration.