Monthly Archives: October 2014

Africa’s trade with the developed world: Reflecting on trade preference schemes (Part III) – Agreements should insist on manufactures trade parity no matter how punitive.

SSA maufactures

As highlighted in Part II, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) manufactures’ exports on the back of the European Union’s (EU) Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) vary by region. Manufactures accounted for just 3.7% of 2013 EU imports from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region in 2013, the lowest amongst the seven African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions. Bear in mind, West Africa accounts for the largest regional population grouping in SSA. For the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) EU ACP regions, manufactures constituted at least 30% of total 2013 exports to the EU. The SADC region has always had (and still has) a relatively stronger industrial base. Thus, the EPAs could not be entirely attributed. There are unique local factors. But even at just above a quarter of exports, it is sub-par. Especially, when you compare the other side of the trade. In comparing trade balances, analysts typically subtract total imports from exports, with net exports considered positive and net imports, an imbalance to the downside. Such an analysis would mask how staggering the trade imbalance between SSA and Europe really is. A much more revealing assessment would be to compare manufactures exported by both sides in relative terms. When you do that, the lopsidedness of the schemes become writ large. Take the SADC region for instance; European manufactures exports constituted 84% of the region’s imports in 2013. The SADC region is supposed to be a relative success, remember. The table below sets out the imbalances in greater detail. There are all in the red!

Manufactures Trade Balance Between the EU and its African ACP Partners (% of 2013 Total Exports By Region). Source: European Commission
EU Imports (% Total) EU Exports (% Total) Balance
West Africa 3.7 47.2 (43.5)
Central Africa 5.6 72.7 (67.1)
East African Community 10.6 83.1 (72.5)
Eastern & Southern Africa 28.1 78.2 (50.1)
SADC 32.1 83.8 (51.7)

The only way I think these schemes can force African industrial development is for the agreements to insist on manufactures trade parity; with the European Union as enforcer (as a demonstration of its genuine goodwill and desire to see Africa develop!). That is counterintuitive, of course. Because you’d think African countries would see the benefit of ensuring such parity of their own volition. As they are likely to succumb to consequent currency pressures that the short- to medium-term reduction in exports such a policy would bring about (Kenyan exporters are currently being beat on the back of the delayed signing of the EU-EAC EPA by a cautious Tanzania), they’d need help. Additionally, administrations with tenuous credibility or power (though elected) cannot afford inflation pressures and hot money outflows that such a policy would engender over a time horizon that essentially encompass their elected tenures. Thus, it goes back to my earlier advocacy for much longer tenured administrations both for cost-effective and developmental reasons. A single 10-year tenure allows a President to plan and implement a legacy that is more likely to be lasting on the upside both for the citizenry and his or her own peace of mind during and after office. While I am not privy to the fine print of the new EPAs, the highlights made public from documents on the European Commission website – though an improvement to earlier ones – are not game-changers for African manufacturing, in my view. Indeed, not all African countries have bowed to pressure. As earlier mentioned, Tanzania has asked for more time to review the EU-EAC EPA. There are likely to be more African countries in the future that would want a re-negotiated trade relationship with the developed world. I say here that they should insist on manufactures trade parity whatever the costs!

Opinions are mine and not that of any institution(s) I may be affiliated with.

Where does the African Union fit in the United States African military strategy?

By Rafiq Raji

US special forces (Reuters:Andreea Campean)

The increased presence of the US military on the African continent has coincided with an increased spate of terrorist attacks in hitherto peaceful states like Nigeria and Kenya. Some could argue of course that a correlation cannot be evidenced and dismiss attempts at suggesting causation to the oft-committed logical fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc (“with this, therefore because of this”). There are also local factors, of course. That said, the coincidence is certainly uncanny. The analogy I like to use is that of a pressure cooker. The US presence has “pressure-cooked” a security threat that would otherwise have evolved at a pace within the management capacity of African governments. Surely, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has not been averaging at least one mission a day in Africa since 2008 just to say hello.[1] Before the US presence and US-pressured Libyan conflict, Nigeria didn’t have a history of terrorist attacks. At least, not a type with this level of sophistication. And it is certainly disrespectful to the intelligence of Africans when diplomats and leaders of African countries and the US say the US military presence on the continent is in non-combat functions. That is pure drivel. Articles have been written in respectable newspapers from Foreign Policy to the New York Times Magazine about this[2]. There are also many scholarly articles on the militarization of the new scramble in Africa.[3] So imagine my surprise when a respected African Union (AU) diplomat recently argued to the contrary when I attempted to make a connection between the US military presence and increased insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Of course, no diplomat in his or her right mind would acknowledge a connection. But at least, you’d expect an intelligent convolution of the argument and not just a terse disavowal from an experienced hand.

In taking an objective view, we have to ask the following questions. What is the AU strategy for dealing with the increased spate of terrorism and insecurity in SSA independent of the US effort? How does the AU plan to fill the vacuum that ultimately would materialize when the US draws down its military presence (however far off that is)? In proposing a framework, one inevitably must draw on subsisting arrangements elsewhere. The North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) is a case in point. In adapting the NATO arrangement to Africa, the AU could simply formalize the unilateral military arrangements many African governments already have with the United States into a single holistic continent-wide framework. This would of course be after the fact. The reality is that the two entities already cooperate on missions. One also has to bear in mind the political sensitivities around the issue of overt military cooperation with the United States for African governments. Not that that has stopped them in any case. Nonetheless, the taciturnity of diplomats around the issue is somewhat understandable. However, with the Ebola epidemic and consequent formal military presence of the Americans amongst others, any such pretensions to independence in a globalized world is now really tenuous at best. The US military is on the African continent to stay. Citizens of the relevant African countries know they are not just “training and supporting” African militaries. You don’t set up an entire command like AFRICOM just to train and support. The African Union should simply become proactive (and honest) about it. It should harmonize the various military cooperation agreements the US already has with a couple of African countries into a single continent-wide one with military bases spread across the major regions. A stand-by force with teeth. One that would allow the AU stop coups, counter terrorist threats and someday try its own leaders for war crimes and corruption instead of them taking trips reminiscent of colonial journeys of shame that one African head of state had to make recently for the benefit of his people.

Opinions expressed are mine and not that of any institution(s) I may be affiliated with.

Picture/Image credit: Reuters/Andree Campean/The Nation








[3] The New Scramble for Africa: Imperialism, Investment and Development in Africa edited by Roger Southall and Henning Melber ( )