The Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel participated in the African Union meeting of Ministers of Agriculture, Trade and Finance yesterday, calling for greater efforts to build economic resilience across the African continent.
Minister Patel said that there is a critical need to build Africa’s agricultural and industrial capabilities, and trade and supply-chains between African countries, thereby building economic resilience for the continent.
He stated that while global economic integration comes with clear benefits, through access to technologies and innovations from across the world, the benefits of highly integrated supply-chains come with enormous vulnerabilities when they are disrupted.
“African countries are learning the hard lesson that we cannot simply remain exporters of raw materials and importers of medical supplies and food products. We must confront uncomfortable facts and deal with Africa’s position in the global economy. Africa has 17% of the world’s population, yet only 3% of the world’s GDP. Our continent imported $66 billion agricultural products in 2019 from outside the continent and Africa runs an agricultural trade deficit with the rest of the world of some $22 billion. The level of imports is bigger than the individual GDPs of more than 40 African countries,” said Minister Patel.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) estimates that the import of agricultural and agro-processed foods, had it been grown locally, is equivalent to about 30 million additional jobs not realised across the continent.
The disruptions caused by covid-19 to global supply-chains has come at an enormous economic cost to countries across the world, including those in Africa.
Minister Patel noted that against the background of the serious damage caused by covid-19 and the rising numbers of young people entering labour markets, there is a need for more focussed interventions to support smallholder production and protect food security and food supply-chains on the continent.
Greater attention must be given to building up Africa’s production in agriculture – both in basic staple food as well as higher value added agro-processed food, Minister Patel said.
This would require logistics, transport and agro-infrastructure, irrigation, veterinary support, financing systems, the ease of moving across borders and the political will required to enable African-grown food to go from the farm to the table.
“Trade policy must support the efforts at building local and continental capacities, building regional markets in energy, digital and financial inclusion, and enable the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); and we must be determined that the legacy of covid-19 must be a stronger, economically more prosperous Africa, producing a wider range of value-added products and with a large and dynamic internal African market. This must be the time for the Made in Africa, the Proudly Produced in Africa initiative to be at the heart of our efforts in economic reconstruction,” Minister Patel said at the meeting of fellow trade and agriculture ministers.
The World Bank in April this year noted that as the pandemic spreads, economic growth in Africa will decline significantly, with enormous losses in welfare. It warns of increased food insecurity amongst many countries as currencies are weakening and prices of staples are rising in many parts of the continent.
The meeting, which included the participation of ministers of agriculture, trade and finance from across the African continent, thus looked at building resilient food systems through agricultural trade and investments to achieve food and nutrition security in Africa. The discussion included looking at the socioeconomic impacts of covid-19 on Africa, containment measures taken, short- and medium-term interventions needed to ensure food availability and access, as well as long term productivity.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, South Africa.