Africa needs to increase the volume of intra-regional trade if it is to counter the ill-effects of the eurozone slowdown.

Speaking at the Africa Trade Forum being held this week in Addis Ababa, Lamin Barrow, resident representative of the African Development Bank (AfDB), commented that the problems afflicting Europe and the potential dampening of demand for Africa’s exports made it increasingly urgent for the continent’s exporters to explore new markets.

“While the continent might not be under immediate threat from the direct consequences of these challenges, our reliance on primary commodity exports makes it impossible to escape the medium to long impacts – the more reason we should boost intra-African trade,” he commented.

Africa’s share of global trade remains low at just 3%. Intra-Africa trade stands at just 11% of total trade compared to 72% in Europe and 52% in Asia.

However there are signs intra-regional trade flows are increasing with the forum announcing UN research that reveals that Intra-Comesa [Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa] trade has grown by 35.4% between 2009 and 2010, rising from US$12.7bn to US$17.2bn.

With the aim of increasing these trade flows, it is hoped that a Free Trade Area (FTA) between the EAC [East African Community]; Comesa and SADC will be realised by 2014.

The African Trade Forum is organised by the AU Commission, UN Economic Commission for Africa and the AfDB. It is the first time that such an event has been held with the aim of making it an annual event.