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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid