Question (Q) - In what way has the Malabo regional conference allowed CTA to reassert its commitment to the region? What specific project ideas have emerged from the conference?
The Malabo regional conference marked a high point in our commitment to Central Africa. For the first time, CTA was able to bring together all the region's stakeholders, not only policy-makers but also representatives of both farmers organisations and the private sector, and agree on the challenges and opportunities linked to the development of regional trade and agricultural value chains. These three days of intense discussions above all enabled the Central African stakeholders to adopt a series of very concrete recommendations and resolutions and to establish together a roadmap for the next five years. It is precisely this roadmap which will constitute for CTA the priority policy framework for our activities in support of these two themes. The priority areas include the desire to facilitate the emergence of structured trade through the establishment of reliable market information systems, the regional harmonisation of norms and standards, the development of warehouse receipt systems and, over the long term, the possibility of establishing a regional commodities exchange. The development of regional inter-branch organisations or in a more generic manner of multi-stakeholder platforms has also been highlighted as priority. CTA is today ready to support the region in all these projects.
Q - Following the signature of the Regional Indicative Programme for Central Africa within the framework of the 11th EDF, CTA and ECCAS have begun working together to support regional agricultural trade, strategic value changes and resilience to climate change. How is this collaboration being implemented at the current time?
The collaboration between our two institutions officially began in June 2015 with an initial meeting in Brussels on the margins of the signature of the Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) between ECCAS and the European Commission. The aim was to gain a better understanding of our respective focus areas and priorities, but above all to identify together the broad lines of a joint programme of work. This meeting therefore enabled us to determine the following three strategic themes: the development of regional agricultural trade, the promotion of strategic value chains for food security and, lastly, resilience to climate change. It was also agreed at this first meeting in Brussels to start by jointly organising the Malabo conference in order to establish with the region's stakeholders a roadmap to be used as a guide for our joint programme of work on the first two themes. That has now been achieved since we have come back from Malabo with a clear view of the focal areas for the next five years. Our two institutions are now working on the operational aspects of the roadmap and in particular the mobilisation of human and financial resources. As regards the questions relating to resilience to climate change, these are scheduled to be reviewed again at the beginning of 2016, in collaboration in particular with the new technical agency for the climate, recently established by the region in Douala, as well as in the light of the discussions and commitments which will be made this week in Paris at the COP21.
Q - The issues addressed at the conference included the obstacles to regional trade in agrifood products. Could you explain what these obstacles are and what measures could help to eliminate them?
As for many other regions in Africa, the barriers to regional trade are an important issue for Central Africa given its very high level of food insecurity, but also because of the negative effects on its balance of trade, as imports represent a very high cost in currencies for the region. It is therefore necessary to improve the circulation of products between surplus areas and deficit areas and to establish closer links between the main areas of production and areas of consumption, in particular large urban centres. This obviously involves first and foremost investing heavily in infrastructures (roads, sorting and storage centre, wholesale markets, cold chain, etc.), harmonising norms and standards, improving compliance with regulations and greater transparency in their implementation. It is important to document in a more systematic way official and unofficial violations in order to provide private operators with very good arguments in their discussions with the regional authorities. The example of West Africa with in particular the important work carried out by CILSS and the Borderless initiative on cross-border flows is a telling illustration in this regard and demonstrates that concerted actions can have a positive effect. Moreover, CILSS, which was present in Malabo, has expressed its willingness to cooperate with ECCAS and the relevant agencies in order to put in place a suitable system in order to facilitate regional trade in Central Africa. CTA, which is also supporting West Africa on a range of strategic issues, including that of regional trade, will promote exchanges of experiences between these two regions which are facing common challenges.
A development economist by training, Vincent Fautrel worked in West Africa for Orstom/IRD and for the French Development Agency (AFD). Subsequently, while working in Paris for one of the key technical development offices in Europe, he was in charge for projects in Africa and Asia involving agriculture, fisheries and agribusiness. Having joined CTA in 2003, Vincent currently serves as Senior Programme Coordinator for Value Chains.
- Article Central Africa conference focuses on regional agricultural trade and value chains
- Article Accelerating agricultural transformation in Central Africa
- Communiqué (only available in French) Promouvoir le commerce régional en Afrique centrale : une étape clé sur la voie vers la réalisation des objectifs de la déclaration de Malabo