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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 ( )

Be still.

By Rafiq Raji

She is fidgeting again.

Why can’t she just be still?

And what does she do when she dashes out like that?

She is back. How are you little one?

Were you sick?

A scratch there. She loosens her hair. Again.

Styles it into a single knot this time. No? Not enough.

A look at the dress. There is a tiny wrinkle there.

Where? There. Here? No, there.

Here? No, further up. Here? No, up!

This is my head! Yes, the wrinkle is there.

Another dash out.

Another hair play.

Another scratch.

Another sitting position.

Up again!

Be still, Sweetheart. Be still.

Africa’s trade with the developed world: Reflecting on trade preference schemes (Part II)

By Rafiq Raji

ssa us exportsssa eu exports

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) exports to the United States (US) has been declining since 2011. At USD40bn in 2013, it was a 50% drop from three years earlier. It is set to decline further in 2014. This is because natural resources (especially crude oil) dominated SSA exports hitherto. As increasing shale gas production brings the US closer to becoming a net exporter of crude oil, this is set to change. Consequently, SSA crude oil producers have sought new customers in Asia. In July 2014, Nigeria did not ship a single barrel of crude oil to the US. This is the beginning of a trend that is likely to be pervasive amongst SSA crude oil producers. This new crude oil market dynamics make it more likely the declining trend in SSA-US exports would worsen in 2014-15. The resource-rich SSA countries of Angola, Nigeria and South Africa have consistently accounted for at least three-quarters of SSA exports to the US since 2005. The same resource-rich SSA countries account for a significant portion (64%) of the sub-continent’s exports to the European Union (EU). However, the structure is relatively more diversified.

In light of the aforementioned, it seems paradoxical that one would adjudge AGOA a relative success. That potential confusion is defused when you “clean up” (discount crude oil and other natural resources) SSA exports to the US. Otherwise, the trade structure is not dissimilar from that of the sub-continent with other regions. According to US International Trade Administration (ITA) data, non-fuel AGOA US imports was USD4.9bn (18% of total AGOA imports of USD26.8bn) in 2013. The positive trend in textile and apparel exports to the US is why AGOA is praised. In 2013 for instance, SSA textiles and apparel exports to the US increased by 11%. These are the types of exports that generate jobs and contribute to growth. It is trends like this that the performance of trade preference schemes should be judged by. So although US-SSA trade has been declining, the positive trend in light manufacturing exports (textiles and apparels) point to the effectiveness of AGOA. In contrast, that type progress is not discernible from EU-SSA trade. For instance, manufactures constituted just 3.7% of 2013 EU imports from West Africa. More progress is seen in Eastern & Southern Africa (ESA), with manufactures constituting 28% of 2013 EU imports. In SADC, it was 32%. So it varies.

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


By Rafiq Raji


“Quiet lion approaching airport, confirm all clear over”

“All clear, alpha team. Quiet lion is safe to proceed”

Colonel Umar had a slight smile on his face as he listened to his CSO check in on advance teams stationed at various points en route the Aminu Kano International Airport. Umar thought to himself: “Quiet lion? Which one of them morons thought of that epithet?” Like his fellow brethren in the public service, he spent his weekends in his home city, Kano nadabo. He also liked performing the Jumat service at the Masalacin Sarki; you have to keep in touch with these two-ear bastards you see. That was one of the perks of serving a Christian president. Because the former president was a Muslim, they all had to wait till he attended the service at the National Mosque in Abuja before heading out of the capital city. And he would have had to wait till the president was safe in Sokoto before boarding one of the jets in the presidential fleet to Kano. The security protocol was still the same though. They stopped all traffic one hour before the presidential motorcade was due to pass and snipers stationed at various points en route had a standing order to shoot to kill any living being in sight who was not in a designated area. No point trying to find out why someone was fixing his flat tyre just around the time the president was due to pass. Simply take them out. No one in sight until the president’s motorcade and at least three decoys had passed at other routes, those were the orders!

As chief of the Secret Service, his security arrangement had to be less overt whenever he was outside the green zone. Usually, what his security detail did when he was returning to Abuja, was to send ahead a three-car convoy with covered plates to the airport to give the impression he had left. Thereafter, a nondescript car, bullet-proof of course, took him for what was really an uncomfortable ride to the airport. No sirens blaring, no flag waving, nothing. They even stopped in traffic! Quiet lion? Yeah right. The boys did their jobs though. There were agents stationed as normal people at strategic points on the route. The cover of the last group stationed just a few kilometres from the airport was that of youngsters playing football carelessly on a field of sand. Their backup were dressed as mobile policemen doing routine checks at a checkpoint close by, a daily fact of life in any typical Nigerian city. Once at the airport though, all protocols had to be observed. The presidential wing was a green zone.

He’d always wondered about all the fuss though. Well, not really. He understood why it needed to be done. It just bothered him that he had to be so cautious in the city of his many firsts. He got to know women felt pain and pleasure the first time in the dark alleys of Yakasai. And all that blood, Gosh! Of course, it was no matter subsequently. You only saw red the first time. And even then, it was only afterwards. He would go with his boys to Sabon Gari to drink beer with the Inyamiris. On other days, they would go to the mammy market in the army barracks. Those were the two places you could buy alcohol in Kano. It used to surprise him then how many do-gooders they ran into at these water holes. Not anymore. There are just too many hypocrites in the world. His job enabled him peer into the inner recesses of peoples’ lives. After twenty years at the SS, he had simply lost the will to believe that people were capable of any good. Well, not all people. Politicians were the ones he disdained the most, including his principal. But he swore an oath. So even though the president was an inyamiri, even though the president was a Christian, even though the president was set on running for a second term at the expense of the ambition of his mentor, it was his duty to protect him. And Colonel Umar was very good at his job.


“The National Executive Committee decided today to nominate President Okpara as the consensus presidential candidate of our great party, the All Nigerian Salvation Party (ANSP). The president has accepted” said the ANSP Chairman with great cheer to a packed hall of reporters and government functionaries.

Just as Colonel Umar and his boys were beginning to feel some relief that the press conference was going exactly as planned. A reporter asked the question they had all been dreading.

“Mr Chairman, how did you get Governor Sanusi to drop his ambition?”

“You can ask the Governor himself” said the Chairman.

“Your Excellency, what made you decide to drop your ambition?” Amina asked the usually boisterous governor who was strangely subdued at the press conference.

“I realized it was inappropriate for me to contest the primaries when in fact the president was desirous of a second term. As is his right, of course” the governor replied.

“So it was not because of the corruption case pending against you and your son?” Amina wasn’t going to be brushed aside easily.

“Of course not!” The governor retorted.

No more, end the press conference. The Chairman was given the signal.

“That should do for one day, this press conference is now over. Thank you, everyone.”

Colonel Umar was about to leave quickly when Amina called him by his nickname. “Yaro na gari!” She meant that the other way round. It was more like “stop or I will call you dan iska!” Which was certainly not a compliment.

Putting on his widest smile, the Colonel played along. “How are you, Amina? Was that really necessary? Putting the Governor on the spot like that?”

“I knew you’d say that” Amina replied with a suggestive smile. The other guy moved. This woman was simply mischief. “What now?” he managed to say. “Well, you could stand there or simply take a walk with me” She knew he couldn’t do that. But then that was not what she meant as she slowly walked away. By this time, the other guy was in a sprint.


“The governor and his son are off the hook, aren’t they?” Amina always kept her head. Those curves were not the only reason he found her irresistible. She could at least try to put some clothes over those curves now that they were spent. One last glimpse, an image to trigger the next tryst.

“Umar?” Amina knew she had his attention now.

“The judge will probably look very closely at the case” Umar quickly managed to say. “You know how serious the president is with his anti-corruption campaign.” The ever-careful spy didn’t want to risk going on record even though the love of his life was the most discreet person he knew. She got the message. Now for the real ask.

“Your boys took my third-cousin into custody yesterday. He is not a member of Karatu Aha, Umar. He is not” How does she do it? Umar wondered. Change subjects like that.

“If he is in custody, it must be because they have evidence of his involvement” Colonel Umar coolly replied.

“Don’t give me that bullshit, Umar!” Amina was raising her voice now. “You are letting a governor whose son was caught with millions of dollars at the airport go scot-free. But in the case of my brother, you remember all of a sudden that you are a professional”

“That boy must not stay a single night in detention! You hear me?” She had him in her mouth now. Amina was a weakness.


There were still other stones remaining in the president’s shoes. One in particular. The guy simply wont’ let go. Because he was very publicly and vociferously opposed to the president, eliminating him was not a feasible option. The blowback on the president would simply be too much to handle were that to occur. As he was also a very highly respected public figure, making him disappear was also not an option. What to do? Colonel Umar was still mulling this when his phone rang.

It was the red line. Something was up. Just then there was a news flash on the TV screen.

“Bomb blast hit convoy of prominent opposition politician”. He did not need to answer the call. He’d been summoned.

The president was furious.

“My instructions were very clear. There were to be no targeted assassinations. We are no longer in the military era”. Ever the professional, Colonel Umar let the president let off steam before clearing his throat.

“Mr President, it was not us. We didn’t order the attack. He seemed surprised. That was understandable for a civilian in any case. Otherwise, he would know that fighting men kept their word.

“So, who did?” asked the still ruffled leader.

“I have a theory”. Colonel Umar prepared himself for another embarrassing show of naivete by the relatively inexperienced head of state.

“I think he did.”

“Who is he?” he retorted.

“I think General Soho organized the attack on himself”

“You know it has been problematic for him politically. The increased spate of attacks just after he lost the last elections”

“That is the most ridiculous stuff I’ve heard in a while, Umar. How could he order an attack on himself when he could have been killed? It is irrational.” The furrowed brow of the man suggested the spy’s theory struck a chord though.

“He survived, didn’t he? Well, it is probably ridiculous as you say.” Colonel Umar wasn’t just a spy.

“One thing is for sure though, you have your work cut out for you in the upcoming elections.” The baKano didn’t say that of course. He was more politically astute than that. But then spies do their masters’ bidding. So yes, he also had his work cut out for him in the upcoming elections!


*”Tazare” means “To proceed” in the Hausa language. It is used colloquially in Northern Nigerian political circles when referring to a political office-holder’s self-succession or second-term plans.

*”Tazarce” is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.