EU Seeks Economic Partnership Deal with West Africa

Written by | Friday, November 15th, 2013

The European Union is negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the broader West African region that includes 16 sub-Saharan countries.
These countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Mauritania.
Some analysts say that sealing such a European-West Africa EPA deal will enable those African countries to have free access to the EU market, shore up their economies to global market, export their goods to a vast European market and drain European investment and know-how in a number of social and economic sectors.
This project, expected to boost African development, will also enhance North-South cooperation and open up new business opportunities for euro-African partnership.
More than half of EU-WA trade (55 pc) is dominated by oil imports from Nigeria. The EU exports mainly to this region industrial goods including mechanical machinery (14 pc), electrical machinery (9 pc) and vehicles (7 pc) to the region.
Excluding oil from Nigeria, the region’s exports to the EU consist mainly of cocoa (11 pc), iron (8 pc) and rubber (6pc). Two West African countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, have initialed few years ago “interim” EPAs” with the EU paving the way for this broader and ambitious deal.
The 16 West African countries, home to 242 million people, with almost 130 million in Nigeria alone, form a politically and economically diverse group. Politically, situations vary from open conflicts, instability, civil wars to nascent democracies. Economically, socio-economic indicators show the region’s acute poverty despite its huge untapped natural resources.
Basic social indicators are below the average for sub-Saharan Africa, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) classifies all 16 countries, except for Ghana, as “low human development”. Indeed, all of the countries, with the exception of Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast, are listed as “least developed”.
Most West African economies are diversified. Manufacturing’s share is weak, and commerce depends primarily on agriculture and animal husbandry in all countries, fisheries in the coastal countries (especially Mauritania and Senegal), mining (Mali, Mauritania) and petrol (Nigeria). These features make the region highly dependent on exogenous factors, such as price fluctuations, climatic hazards and changes in importing countries’ policies.
Regarding intra-regional trade, flows remain low, despite regional integration initiatives which are hampered by the lack of complementarities among West African economies as well as by the existence of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

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