TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

West Africa: Civil society groups call for removal of trade barriers in Africa

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Source: African Manager

Participants at the on-going Fifth African Agriculture Science week, which entered its third day on Wednesday, want all the stakeholders including political leaders to develop func tional policies that will encourage more intra-Africa trade.

The participants, who include civil society groups from within and outside Afric a involved in agriculture, farmers group and non-governmental organizations, said existing protocol on free movement of goods and persons, par ticularly in ECOWAS countries and other Regional Economic Communities (REC), needed to be fully implemented.

''On paper there is the free movement of goods and persons, but in reality we al l know that farmers who take their farm produce to neighbouring countries in the region are daily being harassed by security agencies at border points,'' Lyndia Sasu of the Accra-based Association of Women Farmers said.

''Our leaders cannot shy away from this fact; they need to show more political w ill to implement agreed protocols. In Ghana various women have received training in fish processing, they want to expand their markets to other places but are been discouraged by the various impediments across the region,'' Sasu added.

The participants at the round table discussion on Promoting Access to Regional a nd International Markets for Agricultural Commodities as part of the Africa Agricultural Science Week also identified some key areas that need to be urgently addressed.

These include transfer of money on goods that have been bought, issue of standar dization, harassment at border points, establishment of reliable distribution network, pricing, subsidies and the need for more government suppor t.

''The point is that agriculture accounts for a small part of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Besides this, it is important to build regional trade cooperation; it is important to encourage more African countries to trade with one another. We need to step up credit facilities to help the small holder farmers,'' the Coordinator of the Partnerships to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, Julie Howard said.

Under AGOA, sub-Sahara African countries are allowed to export some designated p roducts to the United States duty-free. But the policy clocks 10 years this year with many African countries yet to take full advantage of it.

While about 5% of textiles has been exported under AGOA, since it started ten ye ars ago, only about 1% of agricultural produce has been exported.

On his part an agriculture expert based in the United States, Fred Oladeinde, un derscored the importance of African countries to improve infrastructure, remove impediments to trade among themselves, develop regional market and the ne ed for civil society and farmers group to be more vocal in their demands.

''We cannot improve our well being if we do not help the farmers in promoting re gional trade and market. We should begin to see how we can use our efficiency to put the relevant infrastructure in place using the various research conducted across Africa by institutions. The key message is that everybody should play th e ir roles well,'' Emmanuel Tambi of the Accra-based Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) said.