Morocco Chamber of Commerce
President of Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry
President of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
FEWACCI President, NACCIMA Vice President
President of PACCI Executive Council & President of the Djibouti National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
It is refreshing to see that South Africa has finally articulated its resolve through approving the agreement for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area. The country will continue to champion the socio-economic transformation of Africa.
On 6 December 2018, the South African Parliament assured the 54-member states of the African Union that it is committed to promoting intra-African trade which will be based on equal partnerships and mutual opportunities. The country becomes one of the recent African states to ratify the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The country’s position on the continent is perceived to be one of leadership through its economic dominance, thus the approval by Parliament of the transcontinental free trade area agreement will inspire countries which are part of its trade regimes (such as the Southern African Customs Union and Southern African Development Community countries) to ratify the agreement. At present, SADC countries such as Seychelles have already begun domestic consultations with key stakeholders such as the private sector on the agreement.
To date, 49 countries out of 55 have signed the agreement for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area. And 18 countries out of the 49 have either deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission chairperson or have had parliamentary approval and will deposit their instruments in 2019. The 15 countries are as follows, according to regional or geographic representation (not Regional Economic Communities membership representation):
Southern Africa: (1) eSwatini*, (2) Namibia, (3) South Africa*, (4) the Democratic Republic of Congo,
East Africa: (5) Djibouti, (6) Kenya*, (7) Rwanda*, and (8) Uganda*,
West Africa: (9) Cote D’Ivoire, (10) Ghana*, (11) Guinea, (12) Mali, (13) Mauritania; (14) Senegal, (15) Sierra Leone; (16) Togo;
Central Africa: (17) Chad* and (18) Niger*
North Africa: None has ratified, and only some are signatories of, the Kigali Declaration on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
(*Denotes countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission chairperson.)
For the African Continental Free Trade Area to be implemented 22 ratifications are required, and the African Union Commission is optimistic that this will be attained by March. The achievement of above 80% turnout in the first year of signing ratifications signifies an important milestone towards realising the objective of creating one African market.
Despite a plethora of scholarly literature on the potential benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area, it is too early to evaluate whether the agreement will be feasible or if it offers the economic prospects the African Union Commission claims it will yield considering the current transcontinental infrastructural position. Worthy of note is that, at present, there is a “basket” of several multilateral, regional and bilateral trade agreements in sub-Saharan Africa, which have lowered trade tariffs among countries and regions. However, due to overlapping membership, some of these agreements are not yielding the envisioned economic and trade-related-outcomes.
Overlapping membership refers to countries having membership in two or more regional trade agreements with concurrent goals of trade and economic liberalisation. This a prevalent phenomenon in Africa, which is affecting the implementation of rules of origin, which are legal mechanisms that regional trade agreements articulate to enhance intra-regional trade agreement trade. The African Continental Free Trade Area “contains a rendezvous clause in which the state parties undertake to continue negotiations in the outstanding areas”.
There is an incorporated schedule for negotiations on tariffs, rules of origins and the priority services sectors, which are yet to be agreed upon and approved by member states. It appears that for the foreseeable future, the regional economic communities will continue to implement their own regional agendas.
Academics, NGOs, governments and diverse businesses are trying to stem food loss in sub-Saharan Africa, while creating conditions for farmers to make a decent living.
Annual food losses for fruits and vegetables are an estimated 40 to 50 percent.
These losses have devastating ripples through rural communities. In addition to causing low farmer incomes, it is a major reason why hunger, malnourishment and broader economic poverty are endemic in rural Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest concentration of poor people in the world, most of them agriculture-dependent populations living in rural areas.
Yet, despite these sobering statistics, relatively little has been done to curb post-harvest food losses in Africa in recent decades. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 95 percent of agricultural research investments in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 30 years have been directed to increasing productivity, with only five percent aimed at reducing food losses.
“For too long, food losses have been a blind spot in the development agenda,” says Toby Peters, an expert on food cooling technologies and Professor in the Cold Economy at the UK-based Birmingham Energy Institute.
But slowly, momentum is shifting. Advances in affordable off-grid cold storage technologies, combined with new initiatives to help rural farmers pool their resources, are creating ripe opportunities to reshape Africa’s rural food systems and cut food losses. Academics, NGOs, governments and diverse businesses — ranging from corporate giants like Coca-Cola to startups like InspiraFarms and Twiga Foods — are all jumping in.
It is a two-step effort. The first step is helping rural farmers gain access to cooling technologies — many running on solar power. The second is helping farmers use scale — by pooling and cooling their crops — to gain critical leverage in deciding when and to whom they sell their goods.