The African Development Bank (AfDB) says that Africa’s exports and imports reached a historic high in 2008 but fell by more than 20 percent the following when the global financial and economic crunch set in.
On the whole, the last decade was very good for the continent, with its trade outperforming the global average. This was linked to the rebound in commodity markets from their lows in the early part of the decade.
In 2009, Africa’s merchandise exports reached US$390 billion while imports stood at $407 billion.
The five leading traders were South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Morocco. Between 2000 and 2009, the value of Africa’s exports grew by an annual average of 11.3 percent compared to the world average of 7.6 percent while imports grew at 13.5 percent compared to the world average of 7.3 percent.
Except for 2009, exports had exceeded imports throughout the last decade sometimes by a large margin.
However, that growth picture is less encouraging if one takes a longer perspective. Between 1980 and 2009, the value of Africa’s exports only grew at an annual average of 4.1 percent and imports grew at 5 percent while the global average was 6.5 percent for both world exports and imports.
One consequence of this is that Africa’s share of global merchandise exports fell from 6 percent in 1980 to 3.1 percent in 2009 while imports fell from 4.7 percent to 3.2 percent during the same period.
Africa’s exports of commercial services amounted to $77 billion in 2009 while imports reached $126 billion.
The leading traders included Egypt, South Africa, Angola, Morocco and Nigeria. Because of the global financial and economic crisis, Africa’s exports and imports of commercial services were some 9 to 11 percent lower than their levels in 2008.
Like merchandise trade, Africa’s services trade experienced strong growth in the last decade. Its exports and imports of commercial services grew faster (10.5 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively) than the world average of 9.6 percent for exports and 9.2 percent imports.
“Once again, however, if one begins the analysis further in the past, Africa’s commercial services trade has underperformed the global average. Between 1980 and 2009, its services exports grew at an annual rate of 6.5 percent while world services exports grew by 8 percent. Meanwhile, its services imports grew by 5.4 percent per annum while world services import growth was at 7.4 percent. The continent’s share of commercial services exports fell from 3.3 percent in 1980 to 2.3 percent in 2009 while imports fell from 6.8 percent to 3.9 percent during the same period. Throughout this period, imports were higher than exports,” the bank says.