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COVID-19 and the unexpected recovery of regional trade in East Africa

At the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, such was the scale of the economic disruption caused by lockdown measures that there was much talk of the collapse of global trade.

In the midst of the lockdowns, in April, the World Trade Organization estimated that the decline would amount from anywhere between 13 and 32 percent. In a similar vein, UNCTAD was forecasting a 20 percent decline in global trade for 2020.

However, recently released trade statistics across the world reveal that those forecasts may have been overly pessimistic and underestimated the relative resilience of the global trading system. In fact, in June, after several months of sharp declines, trade volumes recorded their biggest monthly rise on record, with a 7.6 percent increase. East Africa may be shadowing these global trends.

Also read: Kenya to open trade discussions with Britain, independent of EAC members

Kenya, the largest regional trader, is a good barometer of broader East African trends. The country was initially hit quite hard in terms of the decline in trade volumes, with a 19 percent drop in total trade volumes in April.

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