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Report December 16, 2015

Diversifying African Trade: The road to progress

By Aubrey Hruby

As World Trade Organization members meet in Nairobi, Kenya, for their 2015 Ministerial, the potential economic impact of African trade—for Africa, but also the rest of the world—has never been more relevant. Home to thirty-three of the world’s least developed countries and only responsible for 3 percent of global trade, Africa stands to reap enormous benefit from investing in trade as a vehicle for economic development and growth.

However, African countries face substantial challenges, as the global collapse of commodity demand and China’s recent economic slowdown will test the resilience of the numerous economies that rely on a small range of products and partners.

To fully harness the transformative potential of trade, African countries will have to learn to navigate this constrained global environment and fully embrace opportunities to diversify their international trade flows. Diversifying African Trade: The Road to Progress, a new report by Atlantic Council Africa Center Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby, examines the current obstacles hampering international trade across the continent and provides recommendations for policy makers in Africa and across the world.

Key recommendations include:

  • Speed up regional integration through targeted political will and enhanced financial and technical support, specifically for regional economic communities;
  • Maximize product diversity by improving Africa’s Export Processing Zones to create competitive export-orient clusters;
  • Invest in infrastructure with a particular focus on the power sector;
  • Eliminate trade inefficiencies by continuing to reduce both tariff and non-tariff trade barriers with the help of new technologies, as well as streamlining immigration policies and removing onerous visa requirements.

This report is part of a partnership between the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and the OCP Policy Center and is made possible by generous support through the OCP Foundation.

Related Experts: Aubrey Hruby

Image: KENYA, Mombasa: Photograph taken by the Kenyan Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism (MEAACT) 31 July shows a general view of containers inside Mombasa Port on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast. MANDATORY CREDIT: MEAACT PHOTO / STUART PRICE.