The last Central Bank report on exports in the Monetary Union for 2018 establishes a negative trade balance, in line with the trends of previous years, with a drop in the export coverage rate on imports of 76.7% in 2018 against 83,3% in 2017.
In fact, the data confirm the umpteenth increase in the trade deficit established in 2018 at 2.8% of GDP against 0.2% in 2017, due to the repercussions of the drop in cocoa exports as well as the increase in imports of energy products, equipment and intermediary assets. This trend reveals a strong dependence of the economy on manufactured goods and basic food products such as rice and cereals, and types of goods and services destined for export, mainly related to raw materials.
Exports of goods in 2018 settled at 17 594,7 billion CFA Francs in the whole area, up 1.3% compared to the previous year, thanks particularly to gold (+ 9.6%), cotton (+ 9.4%), cashew (+ 4.5%), and petroleum products (+ 15.6%), while due to the depreciation of the quotations, cocoa (-12.8%) and rubber (-14, 4%) were down. Mining products constitute 34% of exports, up thanks to gold of 3.1 percentage points compared to 2017, where agricultural products are in full regressive trend of 1.9 percentage points, settling at 36.2% of volumes in 2018. In the services sector, exports contributed 3.9% of GDP compared to 3.8% in 2017, with a percentage of incidence on foreign trade of 14.9% in 2018 compared to 15.3% in 2017. The analysis of the general picture reveals considerable improvements in some segments such as business services (+ 14.7%), communication (+ 6.1%), travel (+ 2%), and transport (+ 1.3% ).
With regard to imports, the amount in 2018 stood at 16 817 billion CFA Francs, up 13% compared to the previous year. Purchases are mainly of consumer goods (26.4%), machinery (23.5%), energy products (22.8%) and intermediary goods including construction materials and chemicals (19%). Specifically, this trend is attributable to the growth in purchases, ie + 34.6% for energy products, + 15.4% for intermediary goods, + 9.3% for machinery, and + 2.8% for consumer goods. In the ranking of the main commercial partners, Europe occupies the first place, both for exports (43.7%) and imports (41.1%), followed by Africa (exports to 24.4% and imports to 15 %), Asia (exports to 23%, second place in the ranking with imports at 35.7%) and finally America (exports 7.1% and imports 6.9%). African countries are the only partner with whom the Monetary Union has a trade surplus of 859.5 billion CFA Francs, but a decrease of 975.5 billion CFA Francs compared to 2017.
The WAEMU member countries as a whole have contributed to the worsening of the trade deficit with the exception of the Ivory Coast and Guinea Bissau, countries with a trade surplus, whose performances have considerably attenuated this deficit by 2.2 percentage points respectively 0.1 percentage point.
Gisèle Aké is a Business Consultant for the West African Economic and Monetary common market