FAO Regional Office for Africa

Southern African countries explore ways of leveraging trade for poverty reduction and improved food security

New market environment requires reconsideration of the role of trade to ensure that all countries benefit

(Photo: @ FAO Mediabase)

15 May 2015, Harare – With stronger capacity to design and implement trade policies and strategies, Southern African countries can better leverage trade as a means to reducing poverty and improving food security. Additionally, countries on the continent may be better equipped to negotiate trade agreements to support agricultural and food security strategies as well as investment plans for poverty reduction and improved food security.

In the interest of leveraging trade for poverty reduction and improved food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) convened a workshop on “Mainstreaming trade and related policies and mechanisms into agriculture and food security strategies and investment plans through results-focused programming”.

Addressing delegates during the official opening of the workshop, the FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri, said there have been significant changes in the global food system in the last decade. The changes have seen agricultural markets shifting from being supply driven (demand constrained) to demand driven (supply constrained), and are now characterized by higher levels of prices, and greater volatility.

“This changing environment requires reconsideration of the policies and rules that regulate agricultural trade. Policies and rules need to better reflect the new market environment to allow countries to take advantage of new trade opportunities, while providing them with the ability to manage trade consistent with national priorities, including improved food security and nutrition,” said Phiri.

The workshop held in the Zimbabwean capital from 12 to 13 May brought senior representatives of governments of the 16 countries covered by the FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa, FAO, regional economic communities from Southern Africa, other UN agencies and private trade associations to raise awareness on why and how to engage with the Ministries of Trade, alongside Ministries of Agriculture and related stakeholders in the FAO Country Programming Frameworks, which define national priorities on which governments request FAO support. 

The two day workshop also helped to clarify the assistance that FAO can provide to Southern African countries and Regional and Economic Communities (RECs) to strengthen their capacity to design and implement trade strategies and trade policies. “The identification of appropriate agricultural trade policies is key in ensuring that trade plays its part in promoting growth and employment opportunities and in reducing food insecurity” said Jamie Morrison, Senior Economist in FAO’s Trade and Market Division. “FAO has a central role to play in supporting countries to benefit from agricultural trade” he added.

The African heads of state, through the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods (signed in June 2014), have shown commitment towards boosting intra-continental trade in agricultural commodities and services to harness market and trade opportunities locally, regionally and internationally.

Although trade is regarded as a key driver for growth in almost all African countries, the development and implementation of coherent and appropriate policies and strategies to realize the full benefits of agricultural trade, particularly its employment creation potential, is still limited. The new trade development focus is moving away from the traditional agenda on tariff liberalization to issues such as international standards, intellectual property rights, removal of non-tariff barriers and technical barriers to trade, all of which requires specialized and technical expertise.

Related Links

  1. Photo album from workshop
  2. Opening statement by David Phiri – FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa


Leonard Makombe

Assistant Communications Officer

FAO - Subregional Office for Southern Africa

[email protected]