Trade is an important avenue through which countries transform their economies and raise standards of living. For African countries, trade in agricultural products offers great potential to boost incomes for farmers, processors and other agricultural value chain actors. The 2018 Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor (AATM), the first in a series of annual reports assesses long-term and emerging trends and drivers of Africa’s global, intra-Africa, and intra-regional economic community trade in agricultural products. The report released in September 2018, examines the driving forces behind increased agricultural trade, at global and regional levels, and the effects that this is having across the continent.
According to the report, African agricultural trade has increased internationally and intra-regionally in the last two decades. However, from 1998 to 2013, the balance of African trade has undergone significant change. Exports from Africa to the rest of the world have increased and diversified, in both the commodities being traded and the partners that are being traded with, but imports have increased more rapidly.
With a fivefold increase in the value of Africa’s imports, the continent has recorded a trade deficit since the early 2000s. Demographic changes have resulted in a rapidly increasing young and wealthy urban population, driving the demand for high-quality, processed food products, which are predominantly imported. At the same time, despite global exports of African agricultural products tripling between 1998 and 2013, the share of agricultural products in Africa’s total exports has halved. Furthermore, Africa’s agricultural exports have long been concentrated in a narrow range of products, such as cocoa, coffee and cotton, which has prevented the continent from keeping up with growing global demands for a diverse range of products.
Trade constraints, such as poor quality infrastructure, inefficient customs processes and inconsistent regional standards, limit regional and international trade. Broader challenges, including climate change, also effect the availability of agricultural products for export as increasingly frequent and more extreme climatic events negatively impact Africa’s agricultural yields.
The 2018 edition of the AATM examines the status and trends in competitiveness of African countries in global as well as intra-African agricultural markets. The report also analyses key determinants of trade performance among African countries, as well as opportunities to expand trade within regional blocks and at the continental level. The publication is aimed at making an important contribution towards the data and analysis needed to advance efforts to promote intra-African trade and better integrate agricultural markets across the continent.
The Report is the fruit of a collaborative endeavour between the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). It builds on the work of the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) and the African Growth and Development Policy Modelling Consortium (AGRODEP) on trade, both facilitated by IFPRI under its work in support of the African Union Commission’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.