29 and 30 November 2012 – Conference of Ministers of Agriculture and Ministers of Trade.
The two day Ministerial Conference themed, “Boosting intra African trade: a key to agricultural transformation and ensuring food and nutrition security,” reviewed progress on implementation of continental agriculture and trade development initiatives and revisit efforts from the two sectors that impact on intra-African Trade, agricultural transformation and achievement of food security in the continent.
- Session 1. Joint expert session to review and consider reports and issues that affect both agriculture and trade.
- Session 2a. Trade expert’s session to review and consider the reports.
- Session 2b. Agriculture expert session to review and consider the reports.
The Joint Ministerial tried to:
- Identify synergies, linkages and complementarities in on-going initiatives in agriculture and trade development (CAADP, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Frameworks, Aid for Trade, Grow Africa, African
- Agribusiness and Agroindustries Development Initiative-3ADI, etc).
- Agree on areas of immediate follow up actions at country and sub-regional levels, including coordination mechanisms between Ministries of Agriculture and Ministries of Trade at Member State level, also linked to those at the level of Regional Economic Communities.
- Build consensus on specific programmatic areas, approaches and actions for high-level political engagement with the AU Heads of State and Government, meeting next time in January 2013.
The Commissioner of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Tumusiime Rhoda Peace on her part indicated that the issues of agricultural production and trade are two interlinked matters that the continent has not made best use of. “Africa has great potentials in agriculture and trade. We must ensure that what is produced is traded, but we haven’t done much about trade within Africa,” the commissioner said.
The Commissioner also said that intra-African trade of agricultural products is very low while most agricultural products in the continent are imported from countries outside of the continent.
“Africa trades more with the outside world rather than with itself. Africa’s trade values are close to $40 billion to $60 billion with the outside world,” said the Commissioner, “had this money been invested within, it would have a crucial value in the development of agriculture,” she added.
She also stated that adding value and trading strategic commodities such as wheat would enable Africans to feed themselves. According to her, the conference is to focus on filling the gap for challenges in agricultural production and trading, employment in agricultural production as well as value chain in agricultural products.
The Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture, Wondirad Mandefro, mentioning Ethiopia’s experience indicated that value chain plays an important role in trading agricultural products for African nations. He also said that Ethiopia promotes cotton, sugar and palm as value added products in its agricultural market.
“Africa lacked the capacity to subsidize its small scale farmers who feed the majority of its population. Africa needs the support of the developed nations on how best it can support its smallscale farmers to achieve food security.”
Wondirad also said that the AU’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), provides with the necessary framework to shape agricultural policies for countries on the continent.
ECDPM Briefing Notes:
The Joint Ministerial was originally scheduled to take place from 29 October to 2 November, but was postponed. This came as a surprise, announced only four days before the start of the meetings in Addis. According to the related AU press release, the reason was the low response and confirmation of attendance by AU Member States. This is worrying, since apparently some African Ministers were not available to start working on the integration of trade and agriculture policies for achieving food security on the continent. Although the postponement may also have been related to the insufficiently advanced technical preparations (background papers, etc.), there is a clear risk that the Ministerial Conference only produces a Declaration, without real commitment or follow-upand very slow implementation. This happened before in other important areas for the development of the Continent (including regional integration and the CFTA itself), and should be avoided.
ECDPM blog Talking points, 07/12/2012. African trade and agriculture ministers sow a seed for closer cooperation. A number of important commitments by Ministers and requests for further work are worth emphasis:
- Accelerating implementation of the Plan of Action for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade in both agricultural commodities and processed food products. Hopefully this will lead to an early deal to liberalise key regional food staples markets, which could bring a significant ‘early harvest’ from negotiations for aContinental Free Trade Area;
- Ensuring that the national and regional compacts and investment plans of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP, i.e. the continent-wide agriculture initiative under implementation in most African countries) are the instruments to define and operationalize trade-agriculture collaboration, and enhancing inter-ministerial Working Groups at national and Regional Economic Communities levels;
- Strengthening the capacity of relevant institutions and producers to effectively participate in these innovative practices and monitor their impact at country level;
- Mandating the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency and the Regional Economic Communities to institutionalize policy dialogue aimed at realizing synergies between agriculture and trade sectors