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Framework for boosting intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and services

The African agricultural and food market is expanding quickly as indicated by World Bank projections that show that the value of Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness industry is expected to more than triple to reach USD 1 trillion by 2030, compared to 2010 (World Bank, 2013).

This provides an opportunity to not only boost trade in food and non-food agricultural commodities and services within the continent but also enhance food security in Africa. Regional integration is also gaining momentum as evidenced by progress in the creation of customs unions and the initial steps in setting up a common external tariff at the regional level in a number of regional economic communities (RECs) such as the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) further reinforces the gains achieved in regional integration and opens new market opportunities for farmers and other economic operators.

It has been shown that the export of higher value-added products made in Africa is greater in regional markets than in external markets outside Africa, which are typically dominated by raw material exports. However, more than a decade after the adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in Maputo in 2003 by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in response to the stagnation of African agriculture, Africa continues to remain a marginal player, accounting for only 2.7 percent of world trade in goods and 5 percent of world agricultural trade (Bouët and Odjo, 2019).

These figures are likely to trend downwards significantly in the near term due to the economic shock caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The continent currently depends to a significant degree on extra-African sources for imports of food and agricultural products. The share of intra-African agricultural trade has been consistently below 20 percent in recent decades (Bouët and Odjo, 2019; AGRA, 2019). Comparable figures for intraregional agricultural trade are higher for Asia and Europe (more than 60 percent).

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