THE African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is currently reviewing the existing opportunities in value chains of cotton, meat, coffee and cereals across the continent to understand how they contribute to intra-African trade.
The four products are main cash streams in Tanzania.
The AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene revealed the new development at the just concluded 7th Africa Leadership Forum (ALF) in Accra, Ghana.
This year’s ALF was organised by Uongozi Institute in collaboration with AfCFTA and convened by ALF Patron; retired President Dr Jakaya Kikwete. Its Guest of Honour was Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
AfCFTA SG said that the organisation is undertaking a review of the opportunities in those value chains of the four crops to help the member states to understand the full potentials of the produce 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.
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 Secretary- General stressed.
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 per cent 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 Food and Agriculture Organisation (2019), sub-Saharan Africa’s food import bill was 48.7 billion US dollars in 2019 compared to 46.9 billion US dollars in 2018.
The food import bill for the whole of Africa was about 80 billion US
dollars per year in 2015–2017. From 2020 to 2022, the bill per year increased to 84 billion US dollars while intra Africa trade in agricultural food products was 11.4 billion US dollars, representing only 14 per cent of value of agricultural food products imported by Africa from other parts of the world.
As far as wheat is concerned, the average import bill per year in 2020 -2022 from the world was 15.7 billon US dollars Average rice import bill for the same period was 6.8billion US dollars 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 per cent of the world’s arable land; 30 per cent 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.
“There is, therefore, 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 neighbouring African countries.
“This partly explains why intra-African agricultural trade remains below 20 per cent 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 neighbouring countries or regions. It is time for Africa to feed itself,” he said.
Mr Mene said the 7th session of the African Leadership Forum, therefore, presented an important opportunity to focus energy on “Promoting intra-Africa trade to unlock agricultural potential in Africa”.
He said it’s 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.