News / Economy

African Union Pushing for More Intercontinental Trade

Laborers work at a railway station construction site in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Sept. 16, 2013.
Laborers work at a railway station construction site in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Sept. 16, 2013.
Marthe van der Wolf
Both the African Union and the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) have held countless meetings and conferences on increasing intra-Africa trade. Efforts so far, however, have not translated into results.
How intra-Africa trade can be improved is one of the most discussed topics at the AU and UNECA. African countries do only 11 percent of their foreign trade with other countries on the continent. In comparison, Asian countries do 50 percent of their trade with each other, while European Union countries do 70 percent.
UNECA Regional Integration and Trade Division Director Stephen Karingi said several conferences during the past decades were needed to find common positions.
“They have had to come up with common positions on their discussions, negotiations with bilateral partners, for instance the European Union. But much more importantly, they had to come and agree on what they need to do as sub-regions in the context of deepening regional integration through the regional economic communities,” said Karingi.

World Bank urges changes

A 2012 World Bank report says the continent loses billions of dollars annually because of continental trade barriers. A U.N. report on intra-Africa trade released in July, urges African governments to boost the private sector, reduce trade barriers and expand infrastructure.
The slow progress makes it difficult for businesses to tap markets in surrounding countries.  

The Jittu Horticulture company is Ethiopia’s biggest exporter in its sector. General Manager Jan Prins said Ethiopia has huge trade opportunities, but that there are too many challenges when trying to trade with neighboring countries.
“The major challenge is to reach these markets. And it can either be logistic problems like over flooded border areas, bad roads or no roads, trade barriers, political issues or security issues," Prins said. "For Ethiopia it is very difficult to reach the markets in the surrounding countries.”

Poor infrastructure, visa difficulties, corruption and extremely high transportation costs are just some of the barriers companies face when trying to trade within the continent. A truck in Africa will, on average, only travel nine kilometers an hour because of the many checkpoints. Therefore, transport costs make up 40 percent of a product's price.

Diversity of trade

Intra-Africa trade, both imports and exports, amounted to $131 billion in 2011. UNECA's Karingi said this number could grow as trade within the continent is much more diverse than trade with countries outside the continent.
“If you take the top five products that, say Ghana, trades with the rest of the world and you compare that with the top five that Ghana trades with the rest of Africa, you will find that four out of five of the commodities, tariff lines, that Ghana trades with Africa are actually value added. Whereas five out of five of the trades with the rest of the world, there is no value addition. And you can repeat the same stories on other countries,” said Karingi.

African Union countries have agreed to make the continent a free trade zone by 2017. African Union Trade and Industry Department Director Treasure Maphanga said it is up to governments to make the goal of a continental free trade zone a reality.

“In many countries there is political will that exists at a certain level. Intra-Africa trade does not just depend on one ministry, it does not just depend on the head of state. It depends on the whole government machinery.  And coordinating toward a specific goal,” said Maphanga.

The African Union will hold another conference on how to improve trade within the continent at the end of October.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Tom from: Texas
October 01, 2013 7:55 AM
Intra Africa trade will only work if is roads that link each country to one another and less border restrictions.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.