The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the African Union Commission said on Thursday that increased agricultural trade between African countries can drive sustainable development and play a pivotal role for the transformation of food systems.

FAO and AU’s Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Development launched a guide to boosting intra-African agricultural trade under the new African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. The AfCFTA began trading on January 1 and is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of countries covered, representing a market of 1.2 billion consumers.

The Framework for Boosting Intra-African Trade in Agricultural Commodities and Services is a blueprint for expanding agricultural trade between African countries and aims to unlock the potential of the agricultural sector to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth for Africa.

According to a statement, increased trade represents a paradigm shift away from business as usual and is an important part of the collaborative work towards boosting food security and nutrition for all Africans.

FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel; the AU Commissioner, Josefa Sacko, and the AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene, jointly stated in the publication’s foreword, “The framework provides a timely catalyst for the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems, sustainable development and prosperity in Africa.

“A key priority is the pursuit of industrial transformation policies and programmes that support the private sector to add value to African exports, compete with imports from outside Africa and expand opportunities for job creation.” According to the statement, Africa is a net food-importing region of commodities such as cereals, meat, dairy products, fats, oils and sugar, importing about $80bn worth of agricultural and food products annually.

“A small share of Africa’s total agricultural trade is with other African countries. Intra-African agricultural trade is estimated to be less than 20 per cent,” it said. The organisations said the framework would help policymakers and the private sector to develop strategies, policies and programmes to promote intra-African agricultural trade and the development of agricultural value chains, so that stakeholders, including farmers, small and medium agri-businesses, women and youth, could reap the benefits of the AfCFTA single market.

They said action areas included trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade-related infrastructure, trade finance, factor market integration and cross-cutting issues including the strengthening of trade and market information systems. They noted that African countries had undertaken commitments to remove tariffs on 90 per cent of over 5,000 tariff lines and to liberalise services.

It is estimated that tariff liberalisation in the transition phase could generate welfare gains of up to $16.1Bn, and growth in intra-African total merchandise trade of 33 per cent, up from 15 per cent, according to the statement.


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