In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 5 candidate Duncan Njue explores how African countries can become bigger players in global trade.

Economists define globalisation as a process that involves the integration of economies – products and services; labour, capital and knowledge markets – across international boundaries. In the western world, more so in Europe, North America and in the Asian powerhouse economies of China, Japan, South Korea, globalisation has entrenched itself and has brought huge economic benefits to its people. However, Africa has not largely benefited and continues to be a small player on the global front. In fact, the continent’s share of global trade – of goods and services – in 2015 stands at only 3% of $18 trillion worth. Yet Africa’s population share is about 16% of the world’s total. With a population of over a billion, the second highest in the world, there is a huge latent demand for its goods and services.

The ongoing and established integration of markets must be commended and encouraged. It is certainly a step in the right direction. The continued deepening co-operation between Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the South African Development Community (SADC) will yield huge opportunities to regional trade. The continued co-operation in infrastructural projects in energy, transport and communication networks such as LAPSSET and Northern Corridor Integration Projects ongoing in East Africa currently will for sure be critical in the economic transformation of these regions. They will foster trade. But Africa’s trade must shift from the traditional importation-and-distribution from the developed economies and focus on value adding the made-in-Africa for export both within the continent and to the rest of the world. This is what will truly lift the people from poverty to dignity. To achieve this each African country must determine what its comparative advantage is and should be and then develop a clear and effective strategy to strengthen that advantage on a global scale. It could be specialised agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, labour market, knowledge economy, service industry. The age of doing a little of everything is long gone and no longer sustainable.

Read the full article on the Africa at LSE blog.