FAO Regional Office for Africa

Boosting inter and intra-African trade: Imperative to agri-food systems transformation

Ethiopian experts trained to promote global, regional agricultural trade

Workers engaged in the production of coffee in Ethiopia ©FAO/Sergio Pierbattista

02 November 2021, Addis Ababa:- Trade integration can contribute to agricultural transformation, while combating food insecurity and malnutrition, underscored participants of the capacity development programme on market access.

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

The hybrid training, which was organised by FAO Eastern 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 (WTO-SPS Agreement). Topics such as outlooks for Africa’s trade; global experiences in agricultural market access; and experiences in accessing the EU market were also extensively discussed.

Deliberating on the methods to develop a structured approach to bilateral and multilateral trade engagements, participants agreed to establish a dedicated multi-sectoral team of experts consisting of state and non-state actors to foster regional and global market access for Ethiopia’s agricultural products. The team of experts also devised strategies to work with the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) and other agencies to boost capacities needed for the national trade initiatives.

Addressing the participants, Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative in Ethiopia, noted that intra-Africa trade constitutes 25 percent of the continent’s global trade volume. The Eastern Africa block, where Ethiopia belongs, she said, has the second highest share of the intra-Africa agricultural trade, estimated at 18 percent.

With the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Seid further said, there would be an increased focus on the need to boost intra-African trade. This, in turn, would spur the spread of animal and plant pests and diseases, calling for sound sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. Therefore, the government of Ethiopia and FAO would work together to enhance the capacities of regulatory authorities to assess pest risks in agricultural commodities and employ proper SPS measures that mitigate those risks, stressed Seid.

Orlando Sosa, Agricultural Officer and Phytosanitary Specialist at the FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa, on his part, remarked that, FAO sought to assist member states to promote safe and transparent markets for enhanced global, regional and domestic trade. In achieving this goal, FAO would continue to support member countries to monitor and analyse the impacts of trade policies on national agriculture and food systems to avoid the entry and spread of major pests and diseases particularly through imported commodities. He further said that FAO would promote the use of the Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) methodology – supported by a robust surveillance, pest identification, prevention, inspection and management system – to enable countries mitigate pest risks at the source and destination points of traded plants and plant products.

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

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

The Ethiopian export market for agricultural commodities has not been exploited adequately, given the country’s rich resources for agricultural products. Even though the country increased its earnings by 12 percent by value from the 2018 budget year, it still requires tangible efforts to expand its earnings from the major export goods that include coffee, cut flowers, oil seeds, pulses and livestock products.

Moving forward, the plant health legislation was reviewed – a necessary step for compliance with the global multilateral trade system - signifying a recognition for a transformational change in the regulatory environment. This is particularly important for Ethiopia, given the country’s vast livestock population in Africa and the fact that exports of livestock and livestock products are a growing source of foreign exchange. Recognising this, FAO has been working with the government of Ethiopia to enhance the country’s trade with regional and global markets.

Building capacities to boost agricultural trade in Ethiopia

Strengthening the risk management processes is critical for Ethiopia to fight against risks of pests and diseases. Investing in innovations, tools and technologies for early warning, prevention and response systems is vital to be competitive in the world trade. Creating the competencies needed to conduct pest risk analysis and the solid understanding of the SPS environment are thus fundamental for market access negotiations. While creating awareness on global and regional legal and technical issues on market access, the training had laid the foundations for creating an enabling environment, where both public and private sectors can apply internationally agreed criteria to enhance market access for agricultural products.