The European Union (EU)-Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), which concluded in 2014, will have economic winners and losers, as does any trade agreement. While countries in West Africa could take full advantage of the EU-West Africa EPA to advance economic growth, this region, like each SSA EPA group, must also be aware of its sensitive economic sectors and mitigate losses effectively.
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has entered a new era in its relationship with the European Union (EU), one that envisages an economic partnership model underpinned by sustainable development, to replace the traditional aid donor-recipient engagement that ensued following Africa’s independence from EU member states. SSA forms part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries with which the EU has managed trade relationships under various Conventions from Yaoundé to Cotonou. These arrangements have largely failed to achieve any meaningful economic gains for SSA.(2) Indeed, ACP countries have seen their share of the EU market diminish from 8% in 1975 to 3% in 2012.(3)
It is widely acknowledged that intra-African trade holds massive economic growth potential for the continent. However, intra-regional trade is characterised by high trade barriers which restrain significant economic development. Continent-wide trade facilitation policies need to be implemented in order to address inadequate infrastructure and customs-related processes that hinder trade within Africa.
Trade facilitation, defined as the simplification and harmonisation of international trade procedures with the objective of minimising obstacles to the movement of goods across borders,(2) is high on the global trade agenda. The elimination of trade restrictions in the form of institutional and regulatory reform and improved customs and port efficiency is particularly pertinent to the African region, which, though relatively open with a trade-GDP ratio of 55.7% in 2009, currently accounts for a paltry 3% of global trade. Of particular concern is the low level of intra-regional trade presently at 10%; a figure in sharp contrast with the intra-regional trade levels for the European Union (EU) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, which account for 60% and 40% respectively.(3)