[Aljazeera] African states should aim for increased continental trade, but more political and economic stability is needed first.
Many African countries' main exports are raw goods like cocoa and cotton, not manufactured products [EPA]
Greater African unity has long been a cherished but elusive goal.
The recently completed 19th African Union Summit has again given a renewed impetus to establishing closer economic and political ties among the continent's 54 states, based on a heightened appreciation of the need for more intra-regional trade. Hence the theme for this year's summit: "Boosting Intra-African Trade".
The situation is disappointing: Intra-African trade has remained consistently low compared to its trade with other continents.
According to the United Nations' Economic Commission for Africa, more than 80 per cent of Africa's exports are destined for outside markets, with the European Union and the United States accounting for more than 50 per cent of this amount. Asia and China in particular, are also important export markets for African countries.
At the same time, Africa imports more than 90 per cent of its goods from outside the continent, despite its rich resource endowments, which provide the potential to supply the continent's own import needs.