The COMESA-SADC-EAC tripartite agreement and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) present huge opportunities for enhancing intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and food.
According to the Secretary General of COMESA, Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe, while the African continent has the potential to feed itself as well as export to the rest of the world, trade data disappointingly shows that over the last 15 years the African countries have been net food importers.
Ms. Kapwepwe was the keynote speaker during the 7th Edition of Africa Fairtrade Convention (AFC) held virtually on 22nd June 2021. The event brought together producers, traders, partner organizations, Fairtrade movement, government, policymakers, among other stakeholders.
Organized by Fairtrade Africa (FTA), the Convention provided a forum to discuss improvement of value chains, trade relations, and conditions which translate to improved livelihoods for farmers and workers in Africa. FTA is an African producer organization, certified on international Fairtrade standards producing traditional export commodities.
Ms Kapwepwe said that the AfCFTA will lead to a substantial increase in agricultural trade between regional economic communities (RECs), and particularly in semi-processed and processed agricultural products by removing all forms of intra-African trade barriers.
“Diversification of agricultural exports, away from primary commodities is key to intra-African trade expansion,” she said. “There is potential for intensifying intra-regional trade by building on localized comparative advantages within the region for selected regional agricultural value chains.”
The one-week convention will serve as a platform that will afford Fairtrade producers, traders, buyers, public and private sector to deliberate on trade and agriculture, particularly within the COVID-19 context and in the light of the emerging opportunities, and trends in the international trade in agricultural commodities.
Speaking earlier, Fairtrade International Board Chairperson Lynette Thorstensen said the growing threat of climate change and the COVID 19 has become louder than ever, and this has brought prices of commodities very high for the common person.
In this regard, her organization was willing to provide justice and fair trade to all farmers to protect them from various forms of exploitation as the only way to reach a people centered recovery which will be successful and resilient.
She added that the board has so far spent over 10.5 million euros in farmer support in the world with over 300 million euros going towards supporting those in Africa.
“The farmers need to have a dream register that will enable them look to the future instead of concentrating on the current situation,” she added.
Among those that addressed the meeting were Ms. Mary Kinyua, Board Chair, Fairtrade Africa from Kenya and Norman Kativu, youth representative and Fairtrade Africa board member from Zimbabwe.