Africa in the New Trade Environment: Market Access in Troubled Times



Souleymane Coulibaly, Woubet Kassa, and Albert G. Zeufack | World Bank

Africa faces a global trade environment that is continuously changing, bringing new challenges and opportunities for increasing growth and reducing poverty. Some of these developments include the increased fragmentation of production across borders; the proliferation of regional trade agreements; the relative rise of Asia (East and South Asia) as the new economic frontier; the Fourth Industrial Revolution and subsequent rise of labor-saving technologies; and most recently the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Given the relatively small size of their economies, African countries’ effective participation in the ever-evolving international trade environment remains central to boosting the region’s growth and development.

Africa’s exports and imports of goods and services have achieved their fastest growth in the past decade but remain low in overall volume relative to other regions. To reduce poverty on a large scale and transform their economies, African countries must scale up and diversify their participation in international markets and global value chains (GVCs). The global economy is a source of growth that African economies cannot afford to ignore. To catch up with the rest of the world, there is no alternative: the continent must link its production and trade to the global economy to take advantage of the unlimited demand and innovation along the supply chain.

This effort calls for a comprehensive and dynamic approach that requires reexamination of existing trade to expand the region’s export market access and diversify its markets to new regions and new products while also strengthening regional trade. Such an approach is exactly what this book presents. It is the outcome of a journey started with an expert panel discussion on the future of global trade and its impact on Africa during the World Bank Africa Knowledge Fest on February 22, 2017.


To read the full report from the World Bank, please click here.