In Africa, trade has become one of the driving forces of integration on the continent. In 2012 the Heads of State and Government of the African Union adopted a decision to establish a African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade. Consequently, the need for reliable and exhaustive statistics on the external trade of the African countries, preferably originating from data provided by the countries themselves, has also grown rapidly.

The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union. While this political process is ongoing, the transition situation on the continent is diverse as there are various Regional Economic Communities, customs unions, and currency unions. Producing trade data that serves all purposes is difficult.

Therefore, the African Union Commission is pleased to publish the fourth edition of the African Trade Statistics Yearbook, a time-series of annual trade data for the period from 2015 to 2021. These data almost fully stem from the countries themselves and thus are authentic.

But the reader should be aware that due to the urgent need for such data, international organizations did not wait for this publication and made their own database partly using estimates. The most common one is UN COMTRADE which is a repository of official international trade statistics and relevant analytical tables provided by the United Nations. Divergences between COMTRADE or other publications with this edition have been unavoidable.

The AUC intends to continue its efforts towards improving this annual publication by enriching its metadata, intensifying its validation efforts, and improving its reconciliation with other data sources.