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23.07.2021 Africa

African SMEs face challenges despite progress in implementing trade facilitation measures — ATPC Coordinator

By Economic Commission for Africa
African SMEs face challenges despite progress in implementing trade facilitation measures — ATPC Coordinator
LISTEN JUL 23, 2021

Small and medium-scale enterprises in Africa continue to face trade facilitation challenges despite improvements achieved on the continent as data for 34 countries in a recent United Nations (UN) survey show.

According to a survey released last week by the UN regional commissions, countries across the globe are moving towards a seamless and efficient trading environment within and beyond national borders by simplifying and digitalizing formalities in international trading. This is helping to sustain international trade despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it reveals.

The Fourth United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation is produced biennially by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

“Cumulative data for 34 African countries now available … show mixed results on trade facilitation implementation across the continent,” David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said at the presentation ceremony. “Challenges remain, particularly for SMEs.”

Compared to previous years’ surveys, seven new African countries have reported on the current status of trade implementation measures -- the highest response rate in Africa since the first Survey.

The 34 countries from Africa where data was obtained in the 2021 survey achieved an average implementation rate of 50 percent across all core trade facilitation measures. The countries with the highest average score are Mauritius with 88 percent and Morocco with 83 percent.

The 28 African countries that participated both in the 2019 and 2021 surveys increased their average implementation rate from 49 percent to 51 per cent. Compared to 2019, increases can be identified in the 28 countries’ implementation rates of the categories of paperless trade (51 percent from 45 percent), formalities (65 percent from 62 per cent), institutional arrangement and cooperation (64 per cent from 61 per cent), transparency (57 percent from 56 percent), and cross-border paperless trade which remain unchanged at 24 percent.

The Survey, covering 143 countries, shows the global average implementation rate of trade facilitation and paperless trade measures at 65 per cent. Based on 128 common countries, it is an increase of five percentage points from an average of 61 percent to 66 percent in the last survey in 2019.

Trade Facilitation is critical for realizing the AfCFTA’s objective of increasing intra-African trade flows by lowering bureaucratic delays, red tape, inefficiencies at borders, and by improving administrative efficiency through technology. This survey will be able to help identify the bottlenecks to the implementation of the agreement and identify areas where progress can be made.

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