Maritime trade is Africa’s lifeblood, but the continent is yet to reap the benefits.
West Africa, the world’s leading cocoa producer, is grappling with the aftermath of a disastrous 2016/17 cocoa season. Over the last year, international cocoa prices have collapsed by one-third to ₤1529 by end-August 2017. The drastic drop in prices reflects softening chocolate demand and a historically large cocoa crop from West Africa. The region is on track to produce an estimated crop of 3.44 million metric tonnes (MT), up 20% from the 2015/16 season. The impact of the cocoa price slump has been devastating. Cocoa farmers’ incomes were slashed, leading to panic in cocoa growing communities; government budgets were gutted with billions of dollars in losses from cocoa export earnings; and, child labour resurged on cocoa farms.
Morocco rejoined the African Union (AU) in January after a 33-year absence. Last month it raised eyebrows when it also applied to join ECOWAS. While it had quit the AU over its recognition of Western Sahara, it rejoined without any further progress on the issue, and Western Sahara remains a member. Instead, as King Mohamed VI said in his speech to the AU Heads of State, Morocco has “no intention of causing division,” and this represents a significant change in its foreign policy stance.
The economic growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to recover to 2.6% in 2017, following a net deceleration in 2016. According to the World Bank, the upturn in economic activity is expected to continue in 2018 and 2019, reflecting improvements in commodity prices, a pickup in global growth, and more supportive domestic conditions.
Despite Singapore’s growing trade and investment partnerships with Africa, there have been no free trade agreements (FTAs) between the city state and the African continent. Rather, both parties have agreed to a number of bilateral investment treaties, primarily concerned with private investments and double taxation avoidance treaties. By using Singapore as a successful model of a trading nation that benefits from FTAs, this article seeks to examine the reasons why African countries have not successfully implemented FTAs with Singapore. It also considers what needs to be done to facilitate both intra- and inter-trade in Africa.