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Other obstacles to greater African trade in food staples include export and import bans, variable import tariffs and quotas, restrictive rules of origin, and price controls.
Often devised with little public scrutiny, these policies are then poorly communicated to traders and officials. This process in turn promotes confusion at border crossings, limits greater regional trade, creates uncertain market conditions, and contributes to food price volatility, according to the bank.
The World Bank report titled Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples, was released on the eve of an African Union (AU) ministerial summit in Addis Ababa on agriculture and trade.
The World Bank vice-president for Africa, Mr Makhtar Diop, said that Africa has the ability to grow and deliver good quality food to put on dinner tables of the continent’s families.
“However, this potential is not being realised because farmers face many trade barriers in getting their food to market than anywhere else in the world. Too often borders get in the way of getting food to homes and communities which are struggling with too little to eat,” he said.
The bank’s lead economist for Africa and principal author of the report, Mr Paul Brenton, said that the key challenge for the continent is how to create a competitive environment in which governments embrace credible and stable policies that encourage private investors and businesses to boost food production across the region.
“This will help farmers get the capital, the seeds, and the machinery they need to become more efficient, and families get enough good food at the right price,” he said.
The new report suggests that if the continent’s leaders can embrace more dynamic inter-regional trade, Africa’s farmers, the majority of whom are women, could potentially meet the continent’s rising demand and benefit from a major growth opportunity.
“It would also create more jobs in services such as distribution, while reducing poverty and cutting back on expensive food imports. Africa’s production of staple foods is worth at least $50 billion a year,” it adds.
According to the bank, the continent would also generate an extra $20 billion (Sh17 billion) in yearly earnings if African leaders can agree to do away with trade barriers that blunt more regional dynamism.
The report urges African leaders to improve trade so that food can move more freely between countries and from fertile areas to those where communities are suffering shortages to address the challenge faced by 19 million people living with the threat of hunger and malnutrition in West Africa’s Sahel region.
The continent is expected to double the current demand for food by 2020 as people increasingly migrate from the countryside to cities.
Countries south of the Sahara, for example, could significantly boost their food trade over the next several years to manage the deadly impact of worsening drought, rising prices, rapid population growth, and volatile weather patterns.
PARASTATAL heads who signed the Mombasa port community charter risk being sacked if their agencies do not deliver on the contents of the new entity. The charter signed between the government and the private sector aims at improving the movement of cargo from the port into hinterland