Tripling intra-African agricultural trade needs collective action, say experts at ECDPM side-event, African Union Commission HQ
All the key Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) actors re-affirmed the commitments of the Malabo Declaration this week at the ReSAKSS Annual Conference, saying that they are attainable through multi-stakeholder partnerships and multi-sectoral cooperation.
That being said, there are numerous and diverse reasons for low intra-African agricultural trade. For example, low access to agricultural inputs, poorly developed infrastructure, hostile regulatory and legal environment, non-tariff barriers and poor access to market information at regional level.
Information and willingness amongst policy makers is not lacking, but collective action is needed across sectors to capacitate African smallholder farmers as the largest investors and largest market for primary agricultural products.
These comments where made at the ReSAKSS Conference side-event that ECDPM ran called ‘Responding to Malabo: how to triple intra-African agricultural trade and promote inclusive regional value chain development?’. The invited policy-makers, representatives from farmer’s organisations, the private sector, civil society and development partners found that there are many challenges but also opportunities that can accelerate agricultural trade toward this ambitious targets.
For example the panel agreed that existing trade agreements within the RECs, and the future Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), are of great importance to address the issues. But first there is urgent need for African governments to fast-track progress to implement existing trade protocols, before ‘dreaming’ of the CFTA. The process to develop the “Malabo Declaration implementation strategy and roadmap (ISRM)” presents opportunities for cooperation and coordination to realise that.
We were pleased that the side-event was successful, with more than 70 participants and intense interactions. It was also important to broaden the consultation led by the AUC for developing the Malabo Declaration ISRM in terms of bringing the joint Agriculture & Trade agenda forward. It took some time for organisations like ECDPM to sensitise the CAADP process to such a joint agenda – many stakeholders initially did not see its importance, and there were also delays along the way.
But now this joint agenda is happening. Opportunities for putting into operation agriculture regional integration and realising the Malabo Declaration commitments can be found, for example, in the East African Community Common Law on Cooperatives that offers farmers in the region an edge in exploiting market opportunities, by facilitating establishment of joint ventures among cooperatives across the region.
There was consensus amongst those that attended the session that although highly ambitious, the commitments of the Malabo Declaration can be achieved within the set timeframe, but that systemic adjustments are required to improve collaboration between private and public sectors.
This also means that there ought to be a focus on infrastructure development within regions and, crucially, across regions.
People underlined that there should be better investment into capacities of producers, local private sector (especially Small and Medium Enterprises). Banks and other financial institutions’ approaches should be adapted to match the needs and situation of smallholders and strengthening the facilitation roles of national chambers of commerce and industry.
This in turn requires:
i) Creating incentives both for the private sector to join more systematically the CAADP-related processes and to increase investments as well as for African governments to fast-track progress in implementing existing trade protocols;
ii) More evidence, communication and awareness creation on the potential benefits of intra-African agriculture trade integration for consumers and producers
Some people raised the point that regional institutions are key in the process to realise these goals and commitments and should be empowered to lead more forcefully the implementation of the ISRM.
Finally the discussion returned to the importance of enhancing the capacity of farmers to respond to the current and changing needs of consumers and the retail industry (supermarkets). The CAADP could thus focus the related capacity building efforts on the farmers’ ability to meet the ever evolving certification requirements for quality standards.
What do you think are the best ways to boost intra-African agricultural trade and promote inclusive regional value chain development? Leave comments below or contact Francesco Rampa, head of the Food Security Programme at ECDPM.
This blog post is the view of the authors, not necessarily that of ECDPM.