Chart of the week #17: Tanzania exports far more to SADC than to the EAC

The Daily News had an interesting economic headline earlier this week: Tanzania’s exports to SADC countries soars. According to the article, 29% of Tanzania’s exports go to countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), while only 10% go to East African Community (EAC) countries.

It’s based on new data from the Bank of Tanzania, published in their Financial Stability Report and Quarterly Economic Bulletin.

The article itself got in a bit of a mess, confusing economic growth rates with growth in trade. Nevertheless, the basic point is still interesting: Tanzania exports nearly three times as much to SADC countries as to EAC countries.

Perhaps, therefore, Tanzania should worry less about getting East African integration right, and focus more on its southern neighbours instead?

So I have taken a closer look. There are two charts below, the first looking at exports to SADC and EAC countries, the second at imports. Both use data from the Bank of Tanzania’s March 2014 Quarterly Economic Bulletin*.

Some thoughts?

One conclusion is that trade with SADC countries is dominated to a very large extent by one single country: South Africa. Take South Africa out, and you’re left with quite a different situation – exports to other SADC countries are only slightly higher than exports to EAC countries. And imports from EAC countries are much higher than imports from SADC countries if South Africa is excluded.

Nevertheless, the overall picture is that Tanzania conducts a lot more trade with SADC countries than with EAC members.

Finally, I’m reminded of a Swahili proverb: Mpanda farasi wawili hupasuka msamba! Here’s one translation, though it has been sanitised somewhat. (Hint: put “msamba” into Google translate.)

Or perhaps Tanzania can continue to have it both ways?


* The BoT trade data is not perfect for this analysis. First, trade figures are notoriously unreliable, especially between developing countries. And second, the BoT data does not give breakdowns of trade figures for several SADC and EAC countries, including Rwanda (EAC), and Malawi, Botswana and Mauritius (SADC). Neither of these points is likely to affect the overall argument, but they do mean the data is less precise than it could be.