Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Agriculture and the African Continental Free Trade Area


Agriculture and the African Continental Free Trade Area

Agriculture and the African Continental Free Trade Area

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Following on from an analysis of what continued liberalisation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) may offer African agriculture in the 2017 publication ‘WTO: Agricultural Issues for Africa’, this book critically examines intra-African agricultural trade and what the liberalisation of this trade under the auspices of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) may mean for the continent.

Much of the research presented here has had a genesis at the tralac capacity training ‘Geek Weeks’ where participants, including those from the NAMC, have worked to produce these individual chapters. This is a valuable part of the NAMC/tralac cooperation to enhance analytical and policy making capabilities in the region.

A comprehensive review of African agriculture is provided in these chapters, with the overall historical perspective introduced to set a base for understanding the sector and regional perspectives presented to emphasise the diverse nature of African agriculture. Regional trading and tariff profiles show progress made in liberalisation and, more importantly, focuses on how the AfCFTA can contribute to ongoing liberalisation efforts.

While perhaps the dominant agricultural trader in Africa, South Africa has an important role to play in working with others to promote intra-African agricultural trade. Several chapters examine specific agricultural products that are major trade lines globally and within Africa, and these chapters outline how the AfCFTA can facilitate this trade.

This book provides a baseline to understand African agriculture and trade as we move towards the exciting prospects that the AfCFTA presents. Africa presents the world with something very unique and is indeed rising. The NAMC and tralac hope that this collective effort will contribute to inform policy decisions to develop the continent’s agricultural trade and value chains.


African integration and trade liberalisation: implications for agricultural trade

tralac has been undertaking significant research on possible implications for African agricultural trade from tariff liberalisation for intra-African imports.The research culminates in this joint publication with the NAMC. Tariff liberalisation was also the focus of tralac’s capacity-building programme in that several analysts from the region were involved in a data and report-writing training week (‘Geek Week’) held from late October to early November 2017. This collaboration has resulted in the current book, with the emphasis on the AfCFTA.

In examining the analysis on tariff barriers, we emphasise that tariffs are but one barrier to trade. While, for most industrial products, worldwide border tariffs have been significantly reduced, they remain stubbornly high for agricultural products. We will show that this is the case for Africa, and crucially there are potentially important trade and consequently welfare gains from their elimination across the continent for import duties from fellow African exports. The extent to which duties are assessed on imports from outside the regional trading blocs in Africa is examined, as is also the extent to which many products even within these regional blocs are subject to exemptions and derogations.

Many other barriers exist in the form of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) or, almost but not quite interchangeably, non-tariff measures (NTMs). We do not focus on these NTBs and NTMs. Inexorably interwoven with high tariffs or associated derogations are political economy considerations for some commodities which,because of their sensitive nature, are deemed to be ‘special products’. Neither NTBs (as traditionally recognised) and the new emphasis on infrastructural NTBs (as traditionally recognised) and the new emphasis on infrastructural costs (such as time-in-transit) are examined in this book.

While our approach is to look at the extreme end of the spectrum and muse on intra-African tariff elimination on agricultural exports, we are conscious of the political-economy considerations behind trade liberalisation. There are always winners and losers in liberalisation. Aside from a review of the considerable path-breaking research that tralac has done on the wider aspects of trade and welfare gains from African liberalisation using a computer model approach,our emphasis in this book is on hard data presentation and analysis.

We present a suite of papers in support of our African-wide examination. These range from an initial look at how well agricultural production has performed over the last 50 or so years across the continent. Here we are left with the somewhat uncomfortable fact that in many instances aggregate production has been struggling to keep pace with rapid population growth in several countries.Associated with this is an examination of the sectors’ contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), both a measure of productivity and a de facto measure of industrialisation or the lack of it, and again we are left with unease that much of the continent is dependent upon subsistence agriculture. One aspect of African agriculture that we do highlight is the diverse regionalisation of production and trade, and that Africa agriculture is not a generic sector but rather one that can conveniently be examined in the context of its ‘four corners’of north, east, south and west.

© 2018 Trade Law Centre and National Agricultural Marketing Council

All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of the publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

Publication of this book was made possible by the support of the Trade Law Centre (tralac), National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the view of any of these institutions.


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