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About 200 buyers and sellers of grain commodities from eastern and southern Africa met in Lusaka on Wednesday 28th June 2017 to network and agree on trade deals meant to enhance food trade linkages in the region. 

The one day forum was organized by the East African Grain Council (EAGC) in collaboration with the Zambian Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE). The main objective of the forum was to strengthen food trade linkages in Zambia, Malawi, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

Zambia’s Finance Minister Honourable Felix Mutati officially opened the forum and called for conducive policies that can help bring about increased trade in grain. 

He added that the Zambian government shall endeavor to create solutions around logistics to ensure that maize actually moves to were its being sought.  He revealed that he will engage with fellow ministers in east Africa so that they also simplify procedures and trade with each other in a practical way.

“You can’t reduce poverty unless you create solutions.  There is no reason why maize should come from outside Africa to feed Africans. Let Africans feed themselves because there is enough food to feed ourselves” said Minister Mutati.  He emphasized that traders and policy makers should look inside Africa first before asking for assistance outside.

He urged the traders not to consider the forum as a ‘talk show’ but to engage in conversations that would result into transactions. He further added that they should not be afraid to trade and make money for the benefit of all.

Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said efficient cross-border food trade is a cornerstone for food security. It transfers food from surplus zones to areas of deficit, and avails markets and provides future production incentives for producers.

“Most African countries do not have food self-sufficiency, thus imports are essential to feed their ever-growing populations” said Mr. Ngwenya, who was represented by Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) Officer in Charge Dr Getachew Belay.

He added that COMESA is promoting a regional approach by encouraging infrastructure development and harmonized policies that enable the free flow of food staples from surplus to deficit areas.   He emphasized that COMESA will continue to address the impact of climate change as well as non-tariff barriers to agriculture trade such as Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues, and link smallholder farmers to regional markets through its specialized agency, ACTESA.

USAID Chief of Party and Regional Director Vanessa Adams said there is a huge opportunity for increased trade for southern Africa pertaining to harmonisation of standards.  To achieve this, USAID is working through different projects in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia national and regional bodies.  She said increased trade and trade effectiveness and efficiency will improve the livelihood for everybody especially small holder farmers.

USAID East Africa Trade & Investment Hub (the Hub) and the USAID Southern Africa Trade & Investment Hub (SATIH) also partnered in the event.