News / Africa

UN Urges Africa to Boost Regional Trade

A vendor displays bananas at his stall in the Somali capital Mogadishu, July 8, 2013.
A vendor displays bananas at his stall in the Somali capital Mogadishu, July 8, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is calling on African nations to boost their private sectors to advance intra-regional trade. UNCTAD’s new report on the Economic Development in Africa 2013 says reducing trade barriers alone is not enough to turn regional trade into a winning enterprise.

In a newly published report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development says African governments must boost private industry and entrepreneurs if they are to compete successfully with foreign firms unencumbered by trade barriers.

The report says Africa has a lot to do to catch up with the world's other intra-regional trading blocs. It notes that trade among African nations was low, just 11.3 percent of total trade in 2011. In Asia, trade among regional neighbors was 50 percent of total trade. Europe was higher still at 70 percent.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said that Africa suffers from a number of deficiencies that work to its disadvantage, including the lack of services and infrastructure. He said African companies tend to be very small and this makes it difficult for them to be competitive.   

He cited the widespread informal sector in Africa as a particular handicap in efforts to expand intra-regional trade.

“The size of the informal sector in Africa is 38 percent of GDP, compared with 18 percent of East Asia and the Pacific, 27 percent in the Mid-east and North Africa, 25 percent in South Asia. The size of the informal sector does indicate that most of the policies from the government or the kind of the formal support that would come from the economic policies of the government are not reaching into these informal sectors and so it would be difficult to give them the right kind of support, particularly in the areas of training,” said Panitchpakdi.

UN economists say Africa must expand its productive capacity. This involves measures such as upgrading infrastructure, improving the skills of domestic workforces, and encouraging and enabling entrepreneurship.  

They say Africa must increase the size of existing manufacturing firms so they can satisfy larger markets and produce their goods more economically. If African nations do not have the goods they need to sell to each other, they warn foreign competitors will fill the vacuum. They say African governments can strengthen the private sector by making finance more accessible and less costly.

Taffere Tesfachew is director of UNCTAD’s Division on Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programs. He said agriculture can provide short-term unexploited opportunities for regional trade in Africa.

“There are about 37 African countries that are net food importers, and some 17 or 20 or so net importers of agricultural products," said Tesfachew. "In Africa about 27 percent of the land apparently is arable and available for growing food. These 37 African countries, when they import food, where do they import it - interestingly less than 15 percent they import it within Africa. Most of it comes from outside. So, there must be an opportunity for intra-African trade.”  

The study finds African countries produce and export a narrow range of goods. Most are primary commodities, such as oil, natural gas, and metals. It says Africa’s lack of economic diversification and weak manufacturing base inhibit intra-regional trade.  

It says greater long-term opportunity lies in improving industrial capacities so that Africa has the goods to meet the increasing demands needed for successful regional trade. The bottom line according to UNCTAD, though, is to maintain peace and stability. Without this, it maintains, Africa will not prosper and intra-regional African trade will founder.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs