AfCFTA success depends on support for sustainable food supply chains 

African Continental Free Trade Area

A past meeting in Rwanda's capital Kigali on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). FILE PHOTO | NMG

This year’s AU Summit themed around, “Powering trade through AfCFTA”, emphasising the importance of eliminating barriers to trade among member states.

The continent targets gradually eliminating 90 percent of tariffs on goods, and the reduction of barriers to trade in services aimed at increasing Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035.

To achieve these targets, Africa must be food secure. The state of food security in the continent is worsening, with over 20 percent of the continent’s population (roughly 257 million people) undernourished.

Millions of smallholder farmers, who are vital food producers in the continent, cannot reach markets in neighbouring countries due to poor infrastructure and high intra-African tariffs.

It is estimated that nearly 670 million people will still be undernourished in 2030 — 8.0 percent of the world population.

The impacts are expected to be dire due to the double tragedy of climate change and overreliance on global supply chains for input and food imports.

Beyond its devastating impact on families, malnutrition limits a country’s economic potential, as it decreases the productivity of its people while increasing healthcare costs.

Organisations like AGRA, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the CGIAR and Bill and Melinda Gates are working towards transforming smallholder farming in Africa into sustainable and profitable enterprises.

Through initiatives such as educating farmers in sustainable farming techniques, including crop rotation and integrated pest management, reducing reliance on harmful chemicals, and facilitating farmer-market linkages to ensure fair pricing and reduced food wastage in the supply chain, these organisations assist small-scale farmers in Africa develop sustainable farming.

African governments must also put up strategic and urgent measures to enhance the resilience of Africa’s food systems and bolster the ability to deliver on food security and nutrition objectives.

The writer is a procurement and contract management consultant.

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