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Africa’s share of trade slumps

Source: Daily Monitor – Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of world trade has declined from about five per cent in the 1970s to less than two per cent today.
This was the grim message heard early this week at a ministerial conference of Africa’s trade ministers in Arusha.

The decline in the continent’s market share has taken place at a time when globalisation and liberalisation have led to dramatic expansion in world trade, according to Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume.

Opening the conference convened to hammer out Africa’s common position for the forthcoming World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong, Mr Karume said Africa and the Least Developed Countries have not benefitted from world trade expansion.

“To the contrary, the market share of Sub-Saharan African countries has declined from about 5 percent in the 1970s to less than 2 percent today” he told the ministers and senior government officials from the African Union member states.

Karume said Africa’s participation in world trade remains confined to commodities that are exported largely in their natural or raw form because few countries have the abilities to add value to their commodities.

He said the continent is not doing any better in the commodity trade because of the stagnant demand overseas in the face of entry of new suppliers, competition from substitute products as well as declining quality.

He cited the case of Tanzania where the price of coffee, once one of the country’s leading export crops, had plummeted over the years, reducing the coffee farmers to paupers.

“Now we are seeing the same to vanilla producers whose hopes are shattered by the price drop from $44 (Shs80,080) per kilogramme in 2000 to $6.5 (Shs11,830) per kilogrammes today” he said.

Zanzibar, an autonomous archipelago within Tanzania, has a similar problem Karume said. Cloves, which for many years was the backbone of the Isles economy, has experienced a drop in price from $ 5,500 per tonne in 2001 to $ 2,800 per tonne this year.

This has had a devastating effect on close to a million people of Zanzibar, 50 percent of whom depend on cloves for their livelihood, according to the president who was recently re-elected for a second five-year term.

He challenged the African countries to fight hard to ensure that the process of globalisation is more inclusive of all the developing countries “and more so, those on the lower levels of the development ladder.”

It is estimated that about 65 percent of Africa’s total exports originate from commodities and approximately half of African countries derive over 80 percent of their merchandise export income from commodities.


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