The Commission’s Director for Sub-regional Office for Southern Africa, Eunice Kamwendo, says, for example, they have so far worked with three countries on implementation strategies, namely, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
She said this in Blantyre today during the Ad hoc Expert Group Meeting which is discussing a report on agriculture value chain and opportunities from the Free Trade Area.
Kamwendo says they recognize the importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
She feels the Free Trade Area is a real opportunity for the member states to industrialize but also to ensure that small and medium enterprises within the region are taking advantage of it.
“It is a real opportunity for member states to industrialize and ensure that the medium and small enterprises within the region are also taking advantage of the free trade agreements.
“We will go on the ground as a Commission to ensure that countries are moving because countries may not understand certain issues and our support is to remove barriers that countries face,” she said.
“We are also offering member states with capacity building through trainings that focus not only on ministry of trade for example but the whole government approach,” she added.
The meeting was held under the theme “Agriculture Value Chains, Linkages and Transformation in Southern Africa: Opportunities from the African Continental Free Trade Area”.
On the theme, Kamwendo said that “Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped. The continent remains a net importer of basic food products which costed Africa atleast US$35 billion (on our import bill) in 2015 alone and rising to US110 billion/year in a no change scenario (AGRA 2015).
“We have the policy frameworks; we have the political will; we have human resources, and we potentially have the financial resources and technical know-how. So, what is standing in our way towards transformation?”
She said to achieve transformation, “we need to think big in terms of transforming the agricultural sector in the region, and indeed the whole of Africa.”
Chair of the 26th ICSOE Bureau, Ms. Rethabile Maluke highlighted how vital agriculture sector is to the continental development.
She said, for example, from 2010 to 2018, Malawi created the highest agriculture employment at 85 percent in the region, followed by Mozambique and 75 percent and Madagascar at 73 percent.
“Agriculture value chains or commodity value chains in general are identified in the regional industrialization frameworks as key to spurring industrial development.
“As you are aware, the main tenet of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP, 2015–2020) was the promotion of regional value chains and increasing value-addition in agro-processing with the objective of growing the region’s manufacturing capacity, competitiveness, and capacity to trade and hence, achieve sustainable economic transformation.
“Similarly, under the core pillar of industrial development and market integration of the Revised RISDP (2020-2030) transformation of the agricultural sector through improved productivity and enhanced market access for agro-products remains cardinal,” she said.
The meeting is a curtain raiser for the 27th session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts for Southern Africa from Wednesday to Thursday this week in Blantyre.