The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with the African Union (AU) Commission, launched a new continent-wide framework on Thursday, to boost trade and improve food security.
According to the UN agency, the initiative will help “unlock the potential” of the agricultural sector to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth across the continent, and promote the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement that began in January, establishing the world’s largest free trading area, in terms of countries participating.
“The framework provides a timely catalyst for the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems, sustainable development and prosperity in Africa”, FAO Assistant Director-General Abebe Haile-Gabriel, AU Commissioner Josefa Sacko, and AfCFTA Secretary-General Wamkele Mene, said. in a joint statement.
“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”, they added.
Benefits for all
FAO highlighted that the framework will help the national formulation of strategies, policies and programmes, which will not only promote intra-African trade but also develop agricultural value chains, so that all stakeholders – including farmers, agri-businesses, women and youth – can reap the benefits of the new trading bloc.
Formally known as the Framework for Boosting Intra-African Trade in Agricultural Commodities and Services, the initiative covers trade policy, facilitation, infrastructure and finance; productive capacity; market integration; and cross-cutting issues, such as market information systems.
Though African countries import about $80 billion worth of agricultural and food products annually. Only a shall portion of that trade is within the continent, with intra-African agricultural trade is estimated to be less than 20 percent.