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The African Continental Free Trade Agreement at core of deliberations in Nairobi

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement at core of deliberations in Nairobi
Photo credit: Sebastian Liste | NOOR for FAO

18 Jun 2019

Enhancing Trade and Market Access for Accelerated Agriculture Transformation

“It is difficult to form a compelling vision of prosperity without a role for trade. But for the market to kick off effectively infrastructure that intensifies connectivity and access is necessary,” said Dr William Ruto, Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya.

He was addressing Parliamentarians, Government of Kenya representatives, the African Union institutions and the representatives of the key Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform (CAADP) constituencies. during the opening ceremony of the 15th CAADP Partnership Platform Meeting which started on the 11th June 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Africa should promote home grown agriculture products, increase land under cultivation with better technology which will lead to more employment and trade, Ruto said on Wednesday.

He highlighted the importance of free trade in increasing land availability for cultivation. “Free Trade ensures that every producer is connected to the market through efficient systems and evens out pricing imbalances which increases profit margins. Free trade creates demand for efficient technology, inspiring innovation. Under AfCFTA more land will be available for cultivation with better technology, more and better food will be on every table,” he said.

“I want to persuade you, political and knowledge leaders, that this is our moment to take steps that change the fortunes of our continent,” he told participants.

Key factors limiting Africa’s trade in agricultural products include poor quality of physical infrastructure, inefficient customs processes and high harassment costs, inconsistent regional standards and regulations, and non-tariff trade barriers including stringent food safety and traceability requirements in importing countries.

He continued to inform participants that Kenya was committed to working closely with other states to speed up regional and continental integration as part of efforts to boost trade.

He added that Kenya was among those countries, which have agreed that continental and regional integration is the path to transforming African countries from being developing to developed economies.

Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union, H.E. Josepha Sacko, applauded Kenya’s commitment to the regional and continental integration in the ongoing efforts to promote trade among African states.

“I must laud Kenya’s commitment and fast-tracking of ACFTA bearing in mind that the country was the first to ratify it,” said Sacko at the meeting.

She asked African countries to work together in coming with a roadmap and policy for agriculture to take its rightful place in the market. “We should enhance trade by coming up with incentives aimed at promoting agricultural sector instead of blaming others on the challenges including food shortage facing the continent,” she explained.

Ms Sacko said boosting of intra-Africa trade in agriculture should be emphasized as the only way to achieve the needs of the continent.

Chairman of Non-State Actors under CAADP Chris Muyunda said the African continent should work towards doubling its trade efforts besides eliminating barriers that have become stumbling block to social economic development.

“As African countries, we need to share information on the types of goods and services required in our respective nations,” Muyunda told participants to the platform.

The CAADP Partnership Platform PP Meeting took place at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya to review progress and share experience of CAADP implementation since the last CAADP PP in Libreville, Gabon in April 2018.

Hosted by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, the theme of this year’s CAADP PP, namely “Enhancing Trade and Market Access for Accelerated Agriculture Transformation” stems from the recognition of the role that intra- African trade in agriculture can (and should) play in driving economic growth; but also, the significant challenges involved.

The CAADP PP remains a continental agricultural platform for policy dialogue, lessons sharing and accountability among the CAADP Stakeholders to advance the CAADP Agenda. The meeting built on the lessons learned and challenges from previous editions of the PP and further streamline the anchorage of this multi-stakeholder mobilization and engagement platform while also reinforcing the partnership among constituents for accelerated CAADP implementation.

The meeting aimed to review progress against Malabo Goals and encourage policy dialogue and actions (either collectively or individually by organizations/countries) and stimulate peer to peer learning to accelerate progress.

“We all need to work hand in hand to agree on the roadmap and key policy actions that will position the agriculture sector to take full advantage of the single African market of 1.3 billion people and a cumulative GDP over $3.4 trillion. We can make agriculture transformation happen by 2025. As we continue to celebrate the recently launched Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), let us not only debate but take action on how to attract funding from public and private sectors to enhance intra-African trade and catalyze agriculture transformation in Africa,” said H.E Sacko at the opening ceremony.

Despite recent growth in agricultural trade deficits, there are promising signs of export diversification, both in commodities traded and trade partners, as well as increasing intra-African trade in agricultural commodities. This is according to the key findings of the Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor 2018.

In 2015, African countries spent about US$63 billion on food imports, largely from outside the continent. The modelling work by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) projects that intra-African trade in agricultural products will be between 20% and 30% higher in 2040 with the AfCFTA in place which would then generate state revenue, increase farmer income and expand both farmer and country capacity to invest in modernizing the sector through processing and mechanization.

The AUDA-NEPAD as co-organiser of the Partnership Platform and implementor of CAADP projects at Regional and National level, was represented by a delegation led by Dr Hamady Diop, AUDA-NEPAD Head of Programme: Natural Resource Governance, Food Security and Nutrition, who spoke on behalf of the AUDA-NEPAD CEO, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki.

He spoke on the challenges in achieving enhanced intra-African trade, amongst these he highlighted the need for countries to showcase improved leadership when engaging in partnerships with development partners, silo mentality in the implementation of agriculture programmes at Regional and Country level and the continued lack of similar vision between state and private sector in the agricultural transformation agenda.

“Africa has faced a food and agricultural import bill averaging US$35 billion a year and rising faster than intra- African trade. Notable among these fast-growing imports are processed products and value-added food, this points to the need for accelerating agro-processing industry development in a value-chain approach to agricultural transformation and, therefore, for stronger linkages between policies and strategies for agricultural, trade and industrial development,” he said.

The Economic African Communities (EAC) shared best practises in achieving a united approach to free trade and development partners underscored their continued commitment to working jointly with African entities such as the AUC and AUDA-NEPAD in implementing ‘real’ transformation in the Agriculture space.

The meeting continued on the 13th June 2019 with the High-Level Ministerial Session on Africa Agriculture Transformation.