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[Dehai-WN] AFP: Africa losing out on billions in trade

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 14:33:41 +0100

Africa losing out on billions in trade

By Veronica Smith, AFP | February 8, 2012


Africa is losing out on billions of dollars in potential earnings every year
because of high trade barriers on the continent, the World Bank says. "It is
easier for Africa to trade with the rest of the world than with itself," the
World Bank said in releasing a new report that examines the barriers that
stifle cross-border trade within Africa.

The report comes on the heels of an African Union summit in Ethiopia at
which leaders called for a continental free-trade area by 2017.

The World Bank stressed it was even more urgent that Africa improve trade
flows because of the sharp economic slowdown under way in the eurozone, an
important trade partner under pressure from the bloc's debt crisis.

The World Bank estimates the eurozone slump could shave Africa's growth by
up to 1.3 percentage points this year.

"While uncertainty surrounds the global economy and stagnation is likely to
continue in traditional markets in Europe and North America, enormous
opportunities for cross-border trade within Africa in food products, basic
manufactures and services remain unexploited," said the Washington-based

The report argues that the situation deprives the continent of new sources
of economic growth, new jobs, and an opportunity to make important strides
in reducing poverty.

"Trade and non-trade barriers remain significant and fall most heavily and
disproportionately on poor traders, most of whom are women," Obiageli
Ezekwesili, the bank's vice president for Africa, said in a statement.

She added that leaders needed to "create a dynamic regional market on a
scale worthy of Africa's one billion people and its roughly $2 trillion

Trade between African states currently stands at 10 per cent of the region's
total trade.

In comparison, 40 per cent of North America's trade is with regional
partners and the rate soars to 63 per cent in western Europe.

Aside from red tape, poor infrastructure, especially roads and railways, is
a key obstacle. Transport cost in Africa is more than 60 per cent higher
than the average in developed countries owing to the poor infrastructure.

"Policymakers have to move beyond simply signing agreements that reduce
tariffs to drive a more holistic process to deeper regional integration,"
the World Bank report said, citing an array of barriers that make Africa's
borders "very thick" relative to other parts of the world.

The international border running through Kinshasa-Brazzaville, Africa's
third largest urban area, for example, is a huge bottleneck in trade between
the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it said.

Though the two cities are regional trade hubs, trade between them is
"pitifully small," said the report, co-authored by Paul Brenton and Gozde

The report notes that passenger traffic is about five time smaller than that
between East and West Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

If people travelling between San Francisco and Oakland, California, a
similar distance, had to pay the same level of fees, they would pay between
$1,200 and $2,400 for a return trip, it said.

The exorbitant prices largely stem from lack of competition in river
crossing services granted to the countries' national operators.

In another example, the report said most traders on the border with the
Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring countries in the Great Lakes
region were women, who say they "routinely" encounter violence, threats,
demands for bribes, and sexual harassment at the hands of customs and other
government officials at the border.

Even within the regional bloc the Southern African Development Community,
barriers remain formidably high. South African supermarket chain Shoprite
spends $20,000 a week on import permits to distribute meat, milk and
plant-based products to its stores in Zambia alone, the report said.

Another South African retailer took three years to get permission to export
processed beef and pork from South Africa to Zambia.


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