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Capturing agriculture’s emergence in South-South Cooperation

November 20, 2015

A Brussels Development Briefing on ‘Emerging donors and rising powers in agriculture in ACP countries’ recently took place at the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Secretariat. Nine panellists from research bodies, development organisations and the private sector reviewed how international agricultural development is experiencing a paradigm shift – as emerging powers in the global South strengthen their trade and aid relationships with primarily African developing countries. Participants at the briefing analysed how countries in the South can capitalise on the new dynamic, and explored examples of best practice throughout the ACP regions.

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Rising economies offer trade and cooperation for development

The Brussels Briefing comes as a response to changing times. Historically, development cooperation has involved a flow of funds mainly from relatively rich nations in the West and North to nations in the South. But as economic and industrial development spreads, new rising powers such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, South Africa and South Korea have built up stronger trade and aid links with other developing countries, notably in sub-Saharan Africa. 

This growth in South–South trade links is borne out by recent statistics: over the last 15 years, developing countries’ exports to Africa increased from 26% to 43%, while their imports from Africa grew from 33% to 50%. And in monetary terms, trade between African and non-African developing countries grew from US$283 billion in 2008 to US$595 billion a year by 2012. 

Coupled with this rise in South–South trade is an increase in South–South development cooperation. This change is welcomed by many: whereas traditional donor–recipient alliances have been mired by  colonial legacies, the new South–South partnerships involve nation states operating as equal partners. In reality, the situation is not always clear cut; there are issues of transparency, ownership and accountability that need to be addressed. However, there are many examples of best practice, including a series of success stories shared at the recent Brussels Briefing.

Identifying challenges and reviewing best practice 

At the briefing, panellists first reviewed key challenges and opportunities in South–South agricultural cooperation, and in triangular cooperation, which generally involves an international organisation facilitating cooperation between one or more countries of the South. Discussions centred on cooperation between African countries and Brazil and China, and also considered the role of public–private partnerships. 

Challenges identified included the need to improve communication between African, Chinese and European agricultural researchers. Opportunities identified included the potential for African countries to learn from the Brazilian experience of supporting and strengthening family farms through the work of Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Organisation). 

The second part of the Brussels Briefing looked at best practice examples in South–South cooperation. These examples included the Senegal component of the African local food purchasing programme – Purchase from Africans for Africa – which draws on lessons learnt in Brazil. Another model of best practice was a partnership between East Africa and India to promote the development of an ICT tool – the ‘e-granary’ – to enable marketing of agricultural products.

Considering the future

A key part of the Brussels Briefing was to identify lessons learned from examples of South–South cooperation and to inform the debate on policy options for the future. In particular, participants recognised the importance of learning from the national agricultural policies of partner countries of the South, and of training scientists and agricultural development workers so that they can better communicate with each other, with farmers and with civil society organisations.

“One area where there can be some teaching for South–South partners is in the design of a project: identifying needs and being very clear on what you want the collaboration to accomplish. I think this is so important. Also, it is more and more important that we adopt a systemic approach, and see the interfaces between various sectors.”

Patrick Gomes, Secretary General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States

About the Brussels Briefings

Brussels Development Briefings focus on important issues and challenges for rural development, in the context of ACP-EU cooperation. The recent briefing on emerging donors and rising powers was organised by CTA, the ACP Secretariat, the European Commission and the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs (Concord) in collaboration with the French agricultural research and international cooperation organisation (CIRAD). Participants included ACP-EU policy makers and representatives of EU member states, embassies of ACP countries, civil society groups, research networks and development practitioners. 

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