Boosting inter and intra-African trade: an imperative for the transformation of agrifood systems


Trade integration can contribute to agricultural transformation, while addressing food insecurity and malnutrition, participants in the capacity building program on market access pointed out.

Program participants, drawn from national agencies responsible for market access, noted that improved compliance with regional and global regulations and sanitary and phytosanitary regulations (SPS) would be the most important factor in fulfilling Ethiopia’s desire to expand regional and global markets for its agricultural products.

Hybrid training, organized by FAO East Africa, FAO Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture for 5 days, covered a wide range of topics, including the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (WTOSPS Agreement). Topics such as the outlook for trade in Africa; global experiences in agricultural market access; and EU market access experiences were also discussed in depth.

Deliberating on methods for developing a structured approach to bilateral and multilateral trade commitments, participants agreed to create a dedicated multisectoral team of experts made up of state and non-state actors to promote access to regional and global markets for products. Ethiopian agriculturalists. The expert team also developed strategies for working with the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) and other agencies to build capacity for national trade initiatives.

Addressing the participants, Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative in Ethiopia, noted that intra-African trade constitutes 25 percent of the continent’s global trade volume. The East African bloc, to which Ethiopia belongs, she said, holds the second highest share of intra-African agricultural trade, estimated at 18 percent.

With the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Seid added, more emphasis will be placed on the need to boost intra-African trade. This, in turn, would stimulate the spread of pests and diseases of animals and plants, calling for sound sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) measures. Therefore, the Ethiopian government and FAO work together to build the capacity of regulatory authorities to assess pest risks in agricultural products and to employ SPS measures that mitigate these risks, Seid pointed out.

Orlando Sosa, agricultural agent and phytosanitary specialist at the FAO Subregional Office for East Africa, for its part, noted that, FAO sought to help member states promote secure and transparent markets for improved global, regional and national trade. By achieving this goal, FAO would continue to assist member countries to monitor and analyze the impacts of trade policies on agriculture and national food systems in order to avoid the entry and spread of major pests and diseases, especially through imported products . He added that FAO promote the use of pest risk analysis (PRA) methodology – supported by a robust system of surveillance, pest identification, prevention, inspection and management – to enable countries to mitigate pest risks at points of origin and destination of plants and products plants marketed.

Africa / Ethiopia’s agricultural trade in the world market is low

In Africa, global trade integration is weak. Between 2015 and 2017, Africa’s total agricultural exports represented USD 61 billion, while agricultural imports represented USD 80 billion. The export market was dominated by a few products, namely cocoa; edible fruits and nuts; coffee, tea and spices; fish; and edible vegetables and roots.

Ethiopia’s agricultural export market has not been adequately exploited, given the country’s rich resources in agricultural products. Even though the country increased its income by 12% in value compared to fiscal year 2018, it still needs tangible efforts to increase its income from major export commodities such as coffee, cut flowers, oilseeds, legumes and livestock products.

Going forward, phytosanitary legislation has been revised – a necessary step to comply with the global multilateral trading system – which signifies a recognition of a transformational change in the regulatory environment. This is particularly important for Ethiopia, given the country’s large livestock population in Africa and the fact that exports of livestock and livestock products are a growing source of foreign exchange. Recognizing this, FAO works with the Ethiopian government to improve the country’s trade with regional and global markets.

Building capacity to boost agricultural trade in Ethiopia

Strengthening risk management processes is essential for Ethiopia to address the risks of pests and diseases. Investing in innovations, tools and technologies for early warning, prevention and response systems is vital to be competitive in global trade. Create the skills necessary to conduct a pest risk analysis and a solid understanding of the SPS environment are therefore fundamental to market access negotiations. While raising awareness of global and regional legal and technical issues relating to market access, the training laid the groundwork for creating an enabling environment, where the public and private sectors can apply internationally agreed criteria to improve market access for agricultural products.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.

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