Prospects and Challenges for Supply Chain Trade under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area

African countries are negotiating the African Continental Free Trade Area with the aim to spearhead global value chain (GVC) trade among African countries as a driver for robust economic growth. This paper evaluates the participation of sub-Saharan African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in GVC-related trade over the period 1990–2015 using measures of backward, forward, regional, and nonregional GVC participation. We find that participation of African RECs in GVC trade (regional and nonregional) has increased but still lags behind comparator groups. Overall, African RECs have participated mostly in nonregional value chains along forward rather than backward activities. This in contrast to comparator groups where supply chain trade has veered toward Regional Value Chains (RVCs). For African RECs, only between 0.5% and 3% of total gross exports are related to RVCs compared to the RVC participation rates for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR): 17.2% and 4.6%, respectively. Controlling for per capita income, we find, using a sample of 149 countries over the period 1995–2015, that overall GVC participation is negatively associated with tariffs on imports and exports of intermediates as well as on trade costs. Backward GVC participation is also positively associated with the number of mobile phone subscribers, a proxy for digital connectivity. These correlations are supportive of policies that would lower trade barriers across the board. However, similar estimates for the Africa region do not show any significant association between any of the policy levers above and GVC participation for the region.

de Melo J., Twum A. (2021) Prospects and Challenges for Supply Chain Trade under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, Journal of African Trade, Forthcoming

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