Women trading fresh fish in the town of Aguégués, Benin.
Photo: ACMA

01.12.2016

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Intra-regional trade can significantly contribute to food security and inclusive and sustainable economic growth in Africa. However, numerous barriers to cross-border trade exist which not only slow down the development of the agricultural sector but also negatively affect consumer prices and profits in value chains. In order to realise the potentials to improve food security, existing networks of informal trade need to be recognised and improved. Moreover, more attention should be paid to the constraints women traders face, our authors maintain.

In Africa, decades of neglect of the agricultural sector as a growth sector and inefficient distribution systems have resulted in food demand exceeding food supply. Low productivity, post-harvest losses, high transport costs and poor infrastructure are major obstacles to achieving the goal of Africa feeding itself. These problems are exacerbated by the population in Africa growing faster than its production of food crops. According to the United Nations, over half of the global population growth between now and 2050 will occur in Africa. The combination of predominantly urban population growth, changing dietary patterns and low productivity of African smallholder farmers is one of the reasons why the continent’s food imports are increasing rapidly. But the present situation is also a result of trade policies and restrictions which limit access to markets. Promoting regional trade could enhance food security for the region as a whole.

Clearing obstacles

Regional economic communities in Africa have adopted far-reaching commitments to foster intra-regional trade.

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