Food Coalition

African Free Trade and Food Safety

COVID-19 is severely affecting trade in sub-Saharan Africa, causing demand shocks, a crash in commodity prices, widespread supply-chain disruptions, currency depreciations and a sharp drop in tourism, foreign direct investments and remittances. For the first time in 25 years, sub-Saharan Africa is set to see negative growth, amid declining government revenues and rising unemployment. Moreover, lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus are leading to delays at ports and critical hubs for agricultural imports and exports. This has grave implications for food security and reversed improvements in food safety and nutrition.

Regional integration, including through greater trade in goods and services, is one of the key aspirations of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063. The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to significantly accelerate growth and sustainable development, doubling intra-African trade by 2022 and tripling trade in agricultural goods by 2023. It aligns with the recent AU decision to establish the Africa Food Safety Agency to ensure the coordination of food safety at the continental level.

Although there is strong political will at the highest level, implementation hurdles remain and add costs to crossing borders in Africa. For example, domestic transportation costs are high (partly due to infrastructural and connectivity constraints, such as poor roads and gaps in rail and shipping networks), accounting for 50–60 percent of marketing costs in the region. Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures specific to agricultural trade have become relatively more important than tariffs. SPS measures are critical to protecting public, animal and plant health and SPS agreements ensure the highest international standards. Weak capacity to comply with SPS requirements can result in a country’s exclusion from key markets. At the same time, poorly applied procedures, including inadequate capacity to implement the SPS regulatory framework, can increase the cost of trade. Estimates shows that domestic food prices in sub-Saharan Africa are 13% higher on average due to SPS measures. Promoting intraregional trade will require a lowering of such barriers to trade, which often push traders towards informal channels in a bid to avoid compliance with SPS measures, defeating their intended purpose.

Food safety and quality are essential to trade, food security, public health and economic development. Increasing the supply of safe and nutritious food reduces the impact of food-borne diseases, which cause many illnesses and deaths each year and have detrimental economic consequences in both developing and developed countries. Effective food safety control is crucial to trade facilitation and the successful implementation of AfCFTA.

The need to act has never been more urgent. To mitigate the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on food security and trade, we must strengthen national SPS capacity, upgrade infrastructural connectivity and address other non-tariff barriers to market access, including new regional markets.

Priority Areas of work: Trade and Food Safety Standards
SDG: 2. Zero Hunger, 3. Good Health and Well-being, 5. Gender Equality, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, 10. Reduced Inequality, 12. Responsible Consumption and Production, 17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Level: Regional
Region: Africa
Country: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, State of, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Swaziland, Switzerland, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Budget: USD 15 million


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