High on the agenda at the three-day event are discussions about mechanisms that can foster a business environment for Africa's regional grain trade, with the overall aim of improving livelihoods and boosting inclusive economic growth and socio-economic development. The approach, which involves developing efficient value chains, grading and standardising harvested crops, ensuring secure storage and improving organisation, communications and infrastructure, can help to transform farmers' subsistence operations into profitable businesses through better access to markets.
After speaking at the opening session, CTA Director Michael Hailu participated in a panel dialogue together with high-level personalities. Vincent Fautrel, Senior Programme Coordinator on Agri Trade and Value Chain Development at CTA, is chairing several sessions, including one on Market Information Systems.
"Structured trade is all about making the business more organised and more efficient. Farmers gain access to a market and better prices, and also gain access to finance through warehouse receipt systems," Hailu told the summit. "Traders obtain a reliable supply of grain of the right quality that they can sell to clients. Processors are guaranteed a continuous and reliable supply of raw materials that meet their quality requirements."
Although structured trade first began to emerge in Africa two decades ago, its development has been sporadic and CTA is working closely with EAGC and other regional organisations to promote the practice in East Africa and beyond. As part of these efforts, CTA is organising parallel discussions during the summit between EAGC and two other regional grain platforms that it supports - the West African Grain Network (WAGN) and the Grain Network of Southern Africa Stakeholders (GNSAS).
CTA is currently helping WAGN to develop a grain information system and supporting cross-learning activities with EAGC on setting up regional grain standards. The Centre is providing support to the South African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) to help GNSAS develop and implement a new business plan. It is also helping to strengthen the East African Grain Institute, set up at EAGC's headquarters in Nairobi, which now holds regular training events for bankers and other actors in the value chain.
Other plans in hand include working closely with EAGC to develop information and communication technologies and strengthen market intelligence systems to support the grain trade. CTA is helping to produce information materials and a communications strategy to encourage farmers – especially women and young producers – to become familiar with and adopt the regional grain standards harmonised by EAGC at the request of the East African Community.
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