Ousmane Badiane's viewpoint
Ousmane Badiane is the Africa Director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and oversees the Africa regional offices in Addis Ababa and Dakar. He is also responsible for coordinating IFPRI’s work in food policy research and policy communications in Africa.
What do you think will be the impact of the changing trade environment and the continental and regional free trade agreement, in terms of intra-regional trade in Africa?
The trading environment has improved compared to the 80s and 90s but what hasn’t changed much is the ease of crossing borders with merchandise: the harassment of traders and transporters, the myriad of controls, the conflicting regulations. Infrastructure is another issue that needs to be resolved. Beyond the intention expressed by heads of state in the 2014 Malabo Declaration on accelerating agricultural growth, action has to follow. If it does, the goal of tripling intra-African trade should be within reach.
Will these changes then generate meaningful growth and employment, in particular for local SMEs and for increased industrialisation?
Yes, work commissioned when I worked at the NEPAD secretariat projected regional demand for food staples to increase by an additional €92 billion between 2005 and 2030. Growth of the urban middle class creates opportunity for small-scale entrepreneurs processing cassava, maize, millet and sorghum based meals, and dairy. The way that people eat cassava or millet in West Africa, or maize meal in East and Southern Africa, is now totally different from what it used to be traditionally. It’s now processed, packaged food at quite an advanced stage of processing and that creates an opportunity for small-scale entrepreneurs and indigenous industrialisation. There is an amazing level of energy out there that is just waiting to be unleashed.
Are there examples of resilient domestic food markets which have expanded in Africa?
Resilience and expansion are not necessarily related but if you want resilience to mean that markets have expanded despite the crisis we had in the past, then the answer is yes. If you look at all traded commodities regionally, they have increased quite a bit. Most staples have increased in terms of volumes traded, both domestic and across border, particularly millet, fruits and vegetables, cassava and maize. The one product that hasn’t seen much progress is rice, particularly in West Africa where demand is met by imports from non-African sources and production has only increased timidly although this may change with the recent regional rice initiative.