Annual conference focuses on the importance of intra African Trade

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The annual Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) conference was held this week at the African Union Commission from October 8 to 10.
The conference’s main discussion included the importance of improved agricultural trade performance and competitiveness to enhancing the resilience of the poor and vulnerable.
“Equitable and sustainable agriculture and rural development in Africa requires strategic investments in agriculture, natural resources and the social sector in order to enable rural communities to engage in dynamic and rewarding economic activities,” stated Professor Tekalign Mamo, State Minister of Agriculture in his opening remarks.
The decision made by African Heads of State in Maputo, Mozambique last year where it was agreed that governments should spend 10 percent of national budget for the development of agriculture, was an essential milestone in the African economic transformation. The decision put agriculture as the engine of growth for African nations to address food security and poverty alleviation programs, he said.
Ethiopia has been one of the leading countries in allocating an adequate budget for agriculture and that along with other strategic interventions, it has helped the country to register significant annual agricultural growth over the past 10 years, he added.
According to Tumusiime Rhoda, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, during the Maputo conference, African governments also agreed to boost intra-Africa trade in agricultural commodities and service and enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production system to climate variability and other risks.
“The pursuit and achievement of these goals will also be in line with the theme of the just concluded 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU, which is Pan Africanism and African Renaissance. It is also part of the Africa Agenda 2063 on the Africa We Want,” Rhoda stated.
During the ReSAKSS conference held this week, the delegates discussed countries’ progress toward evidence-based policy planning and implementation through the establishment and operation of Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support Systems (SAKSS) platforms as well as the strengthening of mutual accountability through regular and comprehensive agriculture joint sector reviews.
Studies show that Africa’s agricultural export accounted for 3.3 percent of the world’s agricultural trade in 2009-2013, which is an increase when compared with previous years. The share of intra-African trade has also doubled. Currently, nearly 34 percent of agricultural exports originating from African countries go to other African countries.
“While the situation is far different from that of the 1960s, when African countries dominated global markets, the recent performance indicates that Africa can become a major player again. Now countries need to sustain the policies and institutional reforms and scale up the investments that made this change possible,” said Ousmane Badiane, Director for Africa at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Studies also show that, fueled by both economic growth and population growth, agricultural imports have increased significantly faster than exports. As a result, the agricultural trade deficit rose from less than USD 1 billion to nearly USD 40 billion.
“This highlights the tremendous challenge facing African countries and the need to deepen the reforms and scale up the efforts that have accelerated exports over the last 10 years,” conference participants stated.
The conference was organized by the African Union Commission (AUC), in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).