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Stakeholders list AfCFTA gains in agricbusiness despite $73b infrastructure gap

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Although Sub-Saharan Africa requires massive investment, with over $73b needed on irrigation and storage infrastructure alone to unlock potentials of agricultural sector, some stakeholders, yesterday, said with the right policies, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) may address existing barriers to agricbusiness and limit the continent’s vulnerability from excessive import of agric produce.

Currently, Africa barely trades with itself. Just 16 per cent of African exports are destined for other African countries, which is considerably less than 59 per cent of trade within Asia and 68 per cent within Europe, due to high tariff and infrastructure bottlenecks. 

Agriculture is the largest employer in Africa, accounting for 38.5 per cent of total employment, Tingo International Group CEO, Dozy Mmobuos noted, while stressing that it remained unacceptable for many African countries to continue to depend on imports from outside the continent for their food security.

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For irrigation and storage alone, global research body, Mckinsey noted that as much as $73b would be needed in Sub-Saharan Africa, while admitting that Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped.

As of 2019, Nigeria was reportedly the largest rice importer in the world, importing about 3.4 million metric tons. To underscore economic losses to agric import, despite huge natural resources to address food insecurity, over $1b is spent yearly on fish import to the country.  
    
Mmobuosi, stating that there were opportunities for the sector to perform better, stressed that farmers were hindered by inadequate funding, lack of expertise and poor product quality.

“AfCFTA can play an important role in facilitating intra-regional trade in agri-food products, including from surplus to deficit areas, thereby stabilising food prices and improving food security. The AfCFTA also offers an opportunity to promote agricultural transformation and improve competitiveness through regional agricultural value chain development. For this to happen, many countries will require accompanying policies to improve productive capacities and promote investment,” he said.

Mmobusi also projected increase in industrialisation and export diversification through AfCFTA, noting that both developments are urgent objectives, going by the challenges posed by current COVID crisis. 

He said: “In addition to beginning to trade under the agreement, implementation itself may remain complicated, given the need for Customs officials to be trained and systems put in place and used. 

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“Many of the benefits expected also depend on a combination of AfCFTA with other supporting policies affecting investment, infrastructures, and productive capacities within the private sector. There is also a need to augment mind-set in the private sector looking towards the African market,” he said. 

While Mmobuosi’s US, UK and Nigeria based company have offered support to about nine million farmers, provided access to market, technology and helping to improve produce, the Group CEO noted that It was essential that companies develop products, ideas and strategies to support governments and stakeholders across the continent. 
   
The National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, said growing population across the world create massive opportunity for farming to address food insecurity, and that AfCFTA provides good opportunity for Africa to feed the world.

But for that to happen, he said the continent must upscale productivity and improve quality of agriculture produce to meet global standard. Ibrahim also noted that value addition should remain the continent’s priority, and that export of raw material would add little to economic development.

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