The total merchandise trade in Africa in 2018 has been placed at USD997.9 billion, retaining its number one position among the fastest growing regions in the world.
The Chief Economist of African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Hippolyte Fofack, said this was contained in the African Trade Report 2019 inaugurated on the side line of the ongoing Afreximbank annual meeting in Moscow.
The World Trade Organisation estimates reviewed that the volume of global merchandise trade grew by three per cent in 2018, down from 4.6 per cent in 2017.
Fofack said Africa’s output grew by 3.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018 in spite of the slowdown in global growth during that period.
“The findings highlight the resilience of Africa’s economies to global volatility at a time of rising uncertainty, escalating trade wars and tariffs between the United States, China and others.
“The resilience reflects the diversification of Africa’s trading partners in the context of South-South trade, growing fixed investment and public and private consumption, boosted by expanding urban populations and softening inflation.
“These factors reduce Africa’s exposure to the business cycles associated with individual countries and regions,” he said.
Fofack explained that the European Union remained Africa’s main continental trading partner in 2018 – accounting for 29.8 per cent of total trade.
He said African trade with the South grew significantly over the last decade to account for more than 35 per cent of the continent’s total trade in 2018.
He said China and India further consolidated their positions as Africa’s first and second single largest trading partners, accounting for over 21 per cent of total African trade in 2018.
Afreximbank’s chief economist further said the continent’s Intra-African trade also increased steadily in 2018, growing by 17 per cent to reach 159 billion dollars.
He said Africa had the potential to do more, adding that its contribution to global trade remained marginal at 2.6 per cent, up from 2.4 per cent in 2017.
According to him, intra-African trade rose to 16 per cent in 2018 from five per cent in 1980, it remained low compared to intra-regional trade in Europe and Asia.
Fofack said the ongoing digitisation on the continent was paving the way for a new African economy, with e-commerce platforms and internet penetration to a new generation of transnational digital consumers.
He then urged African governments to further capitalise on the opportunities associated with digitisation, by bolstering regulatory environments and supporting the development of digital ecosystems.
According to him, digitisation can unlock Africa’s potential in driving economic development and the integration of African countries into the world economy.
Prof. Benedict Oramah, Afreximbank’s President said: “It is vital that Africa grasped the economic growth opportunities flowing from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, growing domestic demand and population.
“And our ever-closer investment and trading links with emerging partners in the South.
“We must exert concerted action to ensure that we develop, industrialise, diversify our industries and support infrastructure to foster regional integration and participate fully in regional and global value chains.”