African women traders

A New World Bank report reveals that African countries are losing out on billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of trade barriers on the continent.

African leaders are now calling for a continental free trade area by 2017 to boost trade within the continent.

According to the new report, ‘De-Fragmenting Africa: Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services,’ regional fragmentation could become even more costly for the continent.

This is because World Bank forecasts have suggested that economic slowdown in the Eurozone could shave Africa’s growth by up to 1.3 percentage points this year. “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.”

The reports revealed that this situation deprives the continent of new sources of economic growth, new jobs, sharply falling poverty and factors which accompanied significant trade integration in East Asia and other regions.

“The cross-border production networks that have spurred economic dynamism in other regions, especially East Asia, have yet to materialize in Africa.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for Africa, comments: “It is clear that Africa is not reaching its potential for regional trade, despite the fact that its benefits are enormous.”

However, she said trade and non-trade barriers remain significant and fall most heavily and disproportionately on poor traders, most of whom are women. African leaders must now back aspiration with action and work together to align the policies, institutions and investments needed to unblock these barriers and to create a dynamic regional market on a scale worthy of Africa’s one billion people and its roughly $2 trillion economy.

By Samuel Boadi

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