Africa is widely known to be an exporter of primary products such as unprocessed agricultural goods, mining products, and oil, complemented, in recent years, by tourism services. As such Africa mainly participates in Global Value Chains (GVCs) as an upstream supplier of primary inputs, with minor roles for manufactured goods and other industrial or services products. Yet in recent decades as the World has become more economically integrated and seen significant increases in trade volumes through GVCs, Africa has not remained unaffected and is slowly beginning to assume more varied roles in GVCs.

Due to the large volume of global trade in intermediate inputs, the contribution of a particular country or region such as Africa to global production and trade is best assessed in value-added (VA) terms, that is by netting out the share of exports that consists of foreign intermediates and the share of imports that consists of re-imported domestic intermediates. Such an analysis requires large databases that map production relationships between all countries and sectors in the World Economy.

This data story uses the updated EORA 2021 Global Supply Chain Database to elucidate recent trends in African GVC participation. This database depicts trade in intermediates between all countries since 1990 at a 26-sector disaggregation, based on country-level Supply and Use Tables (SUTs) and international trade data (COMTRADE), harmonized through a global Input-Output Model.

To simplify the presentation of results, the world is divided into 11 mutually exclusive geographical and economic regions, shown in the table below with the number of constituent countries indicated in parentheses.

Code Region
AFR Africa (53)
CHN China (3)
ECA Europe & Central Asia (31)
EUU EU (28)
LAC Latin America & Carribean (43)
MEA Middle East (15)
NAC North America (3)
OCE Oceania (14)
ROA Rest of Asia (11)
SAS South Asia (8)

1 Value Added in Production

The EORA 2021 database is fully based on collected administrative data up until 2018, with IMF forecasts and interpolation filling gaps in administrative data due to publication lags up to 2021. Figure 1 shows the shares of different world regions in global output and VA in 2018. Africa (AFR) contributed 2.3% to global output in that year and 2.5% of global VA, signifying the greater role of the continent as a supplier rather than a consumer of intermediate inputs.

The flow of VA between different regions for that year can be represented in a matrix, shown in Figure 2, where each column shows the sources of VA in the output of that region.