The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is currently reviewing existing opportunities in value chains of cotton, meat, coffee and cereals across the continent to understand how they contribute to intra-African trade.

The 4 products are main cash streams in Tanzania.

The AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene said at the 7th Africa Leaders Forum (ALF) which took place in Accra, Ghana that the organization is undertaking a review of the opportunities in those value chains cereals to help the member states to understand the full potentials of these value chains in contributing to intra-African trade and the broader AfCFTA objectives.

Tanzania’s Parliament ratified AfCFTA in September 2021, effectively joining a free market of 54 African countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than USD 3.4 trillion.

This year’s ALF was organized by Uongozi Institute and AfCFTA, and convened by ALF Patron, retired President Dr Jakaya Kikwete. Its Guest of Honor was Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Wamkele Mene said that another important initiative that the AfCFTA Secretariat is implementing, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, Afreximbank, FAO and other partners, is the Common African Agro-Parks (CAAPs) programme.

“This is part of our collective efforts to create a policy environment for boosting regional investment in agricultural value chains for enhanced intra African trade in agricultural commodities and services and creating a new business dynamic in the agriculture trade arena.”

The ALF, he said, was convened at a time of widespread concern about the potential impact of multiple challenges and exogenous shocks on Africa’s agricultural and food systems, including climate change, the more recent Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Across Africa, the number of people experiencing food insecurity at a moderate or severe level is estimated to have increased from 512 million in 2014 to 794.7 million people in 2021, nearly 60% of the continent’s population, he noted

Africa remains a net food importer as the continent’s demand for commodities such as cereals, meat, dairy products, fats, oils and sugar, continues to outstrip domestic supply. According to the FAO (2019), sub-Saharan Africa’s food import bill was US$48.7 billion in 2019 compared to US$46.9 billion in 2018.

The food import bill for the whole of Africa was about US$80 billion per year in 2015–2017. For the period of 2020 to 2022, the bill per year increased to USD 84 billion while intra Africa trade in agricultural food products was USD11.4 billion, representing only 14 percent of value of agricultural food products is imported from the world by Africa.

As far as wheat is concerned, the average import bill per year in 2020 -2022 from the world was USD 15.7 billion. Then rice the average import bill for the same period was USD 6.8billion per year.

Clearly, he said there is no reason for Africa to be a net food-importing continent. Africa holds at least one sixth of global plant species, with many food crops of African origin; species of wheat, barley, millet, sorghum, coffee, cowpea and oil palm; 65% of the world’s arable land; 30% of the mineral deposits; and rich water resources; abundant labour and great sunshine.

He believes that Africa can, therefore, provide for Africa, with self-sustaining food supplies, fully unlocking its agriculture potential to help feed the world. And this task is not beyond us.

“There is, therefore, is an imperative need to accelerate agricultural production to reduce the food import bills, revive the rural economies, slow down rural to urban migration, expand foreign exchange earnings and create jobs, especially for young Africans and women.” he said

He wondered why many African countries import food from outside the continent when there is surplus food available for trade in some neighboring African countries.

“This partly explains why intra-African agricultural trade remains below 20 percent compared to more than 60 percent for Europe and Asia. It is only through efficient cross-border trade that Africa can ensure that people in a country or region that has food surplus can quickly send supplies to huge deficit and high food insecure neighboring countries or regions. It is time for Africa to feed itself.”

Wamkele Mene said the 7th session of the African Leadership Forum, therefore, presented an important opportunity to focus our energy on “Promoting intra-Africa trade to unlock agricultural potential in Africa”.

He said its crucial that Africa accelerates measures on dismantling barriers which inhibit intra-African trade in agricultural produce and products, increasing investments in agro-processing, and promoting climate-resilient agriculture.

Already, commercially meaningful trading under the AfCFTA is taking place among multiple countries facilitated by the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI) launched in October last year. Several agricultural commodities including coffee, tea and dried fruits have been traded under the initiative.

In one initiative, AfCFTA has provided support to the government of Zimbabwe to help meet its domestic food security requirement as well as reposition itself as Africa’s food basket. This initiative will help Zimbabwe to increase its Strategic Grain Reserve by additional 1,000,000 MT from the current 500,000 MT per annum and increase the capacity of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to handle, store and preserve grains.

This effort will further allow Zimbabwe to reduce the current levels of post-harvest losses over the whole value chain from field to food processor, saving the country up to US$200 million yearly.

The Secretariat is also working with the government of Zimbabwe to establish two food parks along the silos to ensure value added processing of grains for both domestic and regional markets.

There are also ongoing efforts in Angola on development of food parks, and Ethiopia on the establishment of a modern food reserve system to reduce post-harvest losses, as well as in Ghana with the support for value added processing of cocoa for export and in the development of specific value chains, as well as in Botswana for the development of meat value chains

Source: Nam News Network

News Reporter