Lusaka – African farmers should change the narrative of the continent as a net food importer and make it competitive globally to avoid exploitation under new rules championing fair trade, a watchdog advises.
Despite the vast potential of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community and the Southern African Development Community, competitiveness in agricultural commodities and food has remained sub-par for decades.
At a recent virtual symposium, Fairtrade Africa International chairperson Ms Lynette Thorstensen noted the need for the continent to develop agricultural value chains in the face of threats posed by climate change and COVID 19.
Fairtrade Africa has disbursed over €300 million (US$357 million) to African farmers, and another US$12.5 million to farmers in other parts of the world.
“The farmers need to have a dream register that will enable them look to the future instead of concentrating on the current situation,” added Ms Thorstensen.
Comesa Secretary-General Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe recognised the interdependent roles played by the bloc she heads and the EAC and SADC in fostering trade growth.
She said the Comesa-EAC-SADC Tripartite Agreement and the African Continental Free Trade Area presented huge opportunities for enhancing intra-African trade within the agriculture value chain.
Ms Kapwepwe said operationalisation of the AfCFTA at the start of 2021 would lead to a substantial increase in agricultural trade between regional economic communities, particularly in semi-processed and processed products.
“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 localised comparative advantages within the region for selected regional agricultural value chains.”
The week-long Fairtrade symposium brought together producers, traders, partner organisations, fair trade lobbyists and government representatives to discuss equitable and sustainable trade regimes in the agricultural sector within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.