ECA to African leaders: honour your word

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AfricaN leaders should honour their commitment to allocate 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture if the continent is to improve food security, reduce poverty and spur economic growth, Batanai Chikwene of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has said.

Speaking in Cairo, Egypt, Chikwene, a Programme Management Officer with African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), an ECA organ, said more resources were needed to support agriculture and smallholder farmers as the continent is  thriving under the  African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“The AfCFTA will be of immense help to smallscale farmers and start-ups on the continent. In addition to providing them with 97 percent market access and a framework for trade facilitation, it will eliminate barriers inhibiting their growth. But then access to finance is important, which is why I believe the time is ripe for us to urge our leaders to recommit themselves and build that capacity for farmers to increase productivity,” he said.

Chikwene said under  AfCFTA, African  farmers must be ready  to feed people in their own countries, on  the  continent and also to penetrate international markets.

He said the private sector could help to finance the sector, adding that Africa’s small scale farming is key to the continent’s economic success.

In 2003 African leaders agreed in Maputo, Mozambique to focus on building agriculture. In the Maputo Declaration, they agreed to vote at least 10 percent of their budgets on the improvement of food security.

“So far, just a few of our countries have kept their promise. Our farmers need the support if the AfCFTA is to make the huge difference that we expect it to make on the continent,” Chikwene said.

The Head of Private Sector and Trade Finance, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), Khalid Ahmed, said: “Smallholder farmers and SMEs are critical to the overall development of Africa and must be encouraged to grow. They contribute significantly to the economies of African nations and provide the basic needs of the people.”

He said access to funds was important for them, adding financial institutions should be mandated to develop specific products targeted at assisting smallholder farmers and SMEs on the continent.

Ahmed Elmekass, coordinator, AU-SAFGRAD and Sherine Sherin El-Sabag, an Industrial Development Advisor in Egypt’s Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reform Ministry, also supported the call for more resources to be allocated to  agriculture.

The IATF is a platform designed to help African firms ease into the huge market that will be created by the AfCFTA.

Over 50,000 prominent deal makers, businesses, industries, investors, countries and suppliers attended  the IATF where up to $25-billion business deals, contracts and investment transactions were expected to be sealed.

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