Regional Co-operation

Continent Urged to Go Back to Agriculture
African leaders must increase investment in agriculture to combat poverty and food insecurity. UN Deputy Secretary General, Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, observed that whereas a dollar invested in agriculture in Africa has a two or three times greater impact on poverty than the same amount invested in other sectors, agriculture has often been neglected in national development strategies. The results of this neglect are clear. Food continues to cost more than it should and prices continue to fluctuate. The UN projects that the rate of economic growth in Africa will be only 0.9 percent in 2009, down from 4.9 percent in 2008.

Under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, the heads of state and government meeting in Maputo committed to allocating at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture. But so far, only Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Zimbabwe have reached this target.

COMESA Goes Green and Staple
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) recently flagged off a special project to ease and prioritise trade in staple crops. The project gives the biggest market access opportunity to competitively produced agricultural products in the 400 million people-strong region. The 13th COMESA Summit endorsed the project named Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA).

Officials opine that ACTESA is the answer to the regions’ challenges, particularly those facing agricultural products. Top of these challenges are poor infrastructure, low productivity and constraints to technology and policy. The project seeks to work with individual farmers and organise them into producer and trade networks that, if successful, will be integrated into national and regional markets.

Local Traders to Put Brakes on Common Market
The plans for a common market in the East African Community (EAC) are proceeding apace and should fall in place on January 01, 2010, the target date of implementation. But, Uganda’s traders are concerned that they will be unable to compete with traders from their country’s larger neighbour Kenya when the new common market starts.

The EAC common market will be aimed at deepening and widening regional integration, by allowing free movement of labour and capital and granting citizens the right to establish business across borders in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Uganda’s private sector is worried that the EAC objective of regional integration on a win-win basis may not be achieved.