The 2008 economic development in Africa report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reveal that Africa has not made any progress in exports, after 20 years of trade liberalisation.
According to the report, trade liberalisation has had the slightest effect on intra-African trade. Intraregional trade accounted for only eight percent of total African exports in 2006. The report however is noticeably silent on the role that external policy intrusion plays in the holding back of export performance.
This report comes at a time when most African countries are affected by the current severe food crisis. Given that Africa was time after time a net food producer until 25 years ago. It has been suggested to African leaders to reflect on what has happened to Africa’s agricultural production and how to reconstruct its agricultural export sector.
The UNCTAD report also identifies Africa’s frail supply response as the most important barrier to the continent’s export performance
The report proposes policies that could help Africa to refocus its development priorities and increase the continent’s supply capacity and export response and should have export policies that focus more on ways to increase production for export.
Moreover, the surfacing of ‘Southern drivers’ of the global economy suggests that Africa must rethink its existing trade and development strategies and reorient its external trade towards new growth poles such as Brazil, China and India.