Trade Africa Online, is an e-commerce platform established to facilitate the exchange of goods and services between African manufacturers, merchants and consumers, using cutting edge electronic applications. The web-based platform and portal offers superior store front design opportunities to producers and other service providers in Africa, to showcase their products and services and actually conduct electronic trading and other forms of commercial exchanges. All the relevant security, privacy and protection requirements, including those covering payment mechanisms, have been introduced to guarantee the technical integrity of the system.

Background and Context

Available data indicates that trade among African states average 12.8% compared to 68.6% among European countries, 48.6% for North America and 53.4% among countries in Asia. This makes intra African trade the lowest among competing trading regions in the world except the Middle East region. The level of economic development in the top three trading regions namely Europe, Asia and North America is directly related to the level of intra-regional trade. In other words, a region with a high level of internal trading among its constituent member States enjoys a higher level of economic development, including higher income levels and more developed physical infrastructure. This phenomenon underpins the need for a concerted effort to enhance activities and programs seeking to improve intra-regional trade in Africa.

African governments and supra-national institutions have made several attempts towards the enhancement of intra-African trade especially since the 1970s, with varying degrees of success. This includes the formation of eight sub regional trading blocs, namely ECOWAS (Economic Community for West African States), EAC (East African Community), SADC (Southern African Development Community), COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), ECCAS (Economic Community for Central African States), TFTA (Tripartite Free Trade Area), AMU (Arab Maghreb Union), CEN-SAD (Community of Sahel-Saharan States).

In an effort to deepen the efforts of these various sub regional trading blocs, the Assembly of the Heads of States and Governments of the African Union during its 18th Ordinary Session held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, adopted a decision (Assembly/ AU/Dec.394 [XVIII]) to establish a Pan- Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by the indicative date of 2017. It also endorsed an Action Plan for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT). This historic Summit Decision is aimed at deepening Africa’s market integration and using trade to serve as an effective instrument for the attainment of rapid and sustainable socio-economic development.

Subsequent to this Summit Decision, an extensive programme of consultations and negotiations have been undertaken since 2012, culminating in the historic execution by the Heads of States and Governments of the African Union in March 2018, of the Framework Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), with the accompanying Protocols on Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Working Rules and Procedures for Dispute Settlement, as well as the relevant Annexes.

It is against the foregoing background that the Trade Africa Online platform has been established, as one of the practical interventions to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. The AfCFTA will bring together fifty four African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US$3.4 trillion.

Trade Africa Online is an initiative of the Center for Strategic African Initiatives (CSAI), and the Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( PACCI).