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The past couple of years have been tough for African countries in the business of trade, a statistics report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows. According to the report, a slowdown in trade was particularly evident in merchandise exports, which fell by 10.5 percent. Decreasing volumes of goods loaded in seaports for international shipment and falling foreign direct investment receipts also illustrated the challenges, the findings show. Nevertheless, for the region, GDP grew by a modest 1.7 percent.
Other factors for Africa’s less than satisfactory trade sector includes the fact that the sector remains characterized by low product diversification and high dependency on raw materials compared with other regions of the world.
The report also shows that decreasing commodity prices in recent years have led to deteriorating terms of trade. This deterioration was reflected in large trade deficits for manufactured goods, which were not outweighed by trade surpluses for primary products. Consequently, Africa ran a merchandise trade deficit, as their percentage of exports, was much higher than other developing regions.
Other statistics, available in the report, indicate some favorable trends for African economies. Since June 2016, for example, the UNCTAD commodity price index has been increasing year-on-year. The current account deficit of many African economies stabilized in 2016 and stopped rising. Looking at demographic trends, the proportion of people of working age in Africa is expected to grow rapidly, yielding a demographic dividend and a positive effect on labor supply. The same favorable trends have been seen in 2017.
The report also illustrates the importance of trans-continental and intra-region trade and how they vary across continents. In 2016, the exchange of goods between China, the United States of America and Germany amounted to almost USD 1 trillion – 6 percent of world merchandise trade.
In the same year, 69 percent of the European exports remained within Europe and 59 percent of the Asian exports, in Asia. By contrast, for Northern America, Latin America and the Caribbean and for Africa, most exports were delivered to economies in other continents than that of the exporter.
UNCTAD’s report referred to as a Statistics Handbook provides a coherent overview of trends worldwide and novel summary analyses of countries, regions and sectors.
According to UNCTAD’s Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant “Reliable statistical information is essential to support, evaluate and guide policy choices for all nations, and notably developing countries, providing them with tools that are not always easy for them to produce. Such tools are indispensable, both for their national economies and development, and to better integrate them into the global economy.”