Annual Forum Papers

Trade integration and global value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa: In pursuit of the missing link

  • Year: 2015
  • Organisation: Celine Allard, Wenjie Chen and Emmanouil Kitsios (IMF)
  • Author(s): Celine Allard; Wenjie Chen; Emmanouil Kitsios
  • Countries and Regions: Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Session 2: Regional integration and SADC

This paper investigates the extent of trade integration of Sub-Saharan African countries in the global economy as well as within the region. Four key concepts are used to assess integration: 1) trade openness, 2) the centrality in the global and regional trade network, 3) gravity model estimates, and 4) global value chain (GVC) integration. We find that the region's trade openness has increased strongly since the mid-1990s, reflecting a growing partnership with emerging markets, particularly China, and budding intraregional trade. However, the region's trade flows have barely kept up with the rapid expansion of global trade. The trade centrality of the economies in the region remains relatively low, and has not increased much over the last 20 years. It remains lower than the one observed in other comparable emerging and developing economies. Likewise, the region still has some way to go to better integrate in global value chains - a feature associated with higher income growth overtime in regions such as South East Asia and Eastern Europe. Some countries are showing progress, albeit from low starting points, with the EAC and SACU particular bright spots. A better insertion into the global economy would help foster structural transformation, export diversification, and the possibility to absorb technology and skills from abroad.