AfCFTA to tackle food waste, improve agricultural trade

There appears to be an end in sight for the perennial problem of food wastage and its impact on food security, as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) secretariat ramps up efforts to improve the storage and export of agricultural commodities across the continent.

AfCFTA’s Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene, said the move has assumed greater importance following excessive shocks the continent experienced following the emergence of COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

He stated that the secretariat has begun engagements with Zimbabwe, where more than US$200million worth of grain is lost annually due to lack of storage and processing options.

“We are working with the government of Zimbabwe and we have set a target… Zimbabwe must be a net exporter of grains by processing the excess capacity that already exists,” Mr. Mene said at the first-ever Africa Sustainable Supply Chain Summit held in Accra,

“We have an interest in this as the secretariat, since we want to see more trade in agricultural produce across the African continent,” he added, hinting that nations such as Ghana are in line for similar engagements.

It is estimated that approximately one-third of the food produced worldwide is wasted, leading to economic losses of around US$1trillion annually. In sub-Saharan Africa, the estimated rate is marginally higher at approximately 37 percent.

One study published by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) in 2022 suggests that, in Ghana, as much as 3.2 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain – resulting in a loss of roughly GH¢762.32billion.

Another estimate posits that annually two-thirds of fruit and vegetables, 40 percent of root crops, and 21 percent of grains are lost in the country. Meanwhile, half of the population experiences moderate to severe food insecurity.

The Secretary-General is optimistic that the emergence of a legal framework for trade on the continent, AfCFTA, and some of its principal pillars – the protocol on the transit of goods; harmonization of Customs procedures; as well as the policy on trade facilitation – will give impetus to the efforts.

“Without these, the ability to establish supply chain networks on the continent that are sustainable will be limited,” he added.

Also, at the event themed ‘Sustainable supply chain for economic growth in Africa’, the Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, John W.H. Denton, expressed his belief that the secretariat’s initiative, along with others, will enhance supply chain processes among members and expedite achievement of the AfCFTA’s forecasted US$450billion annual contribution to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product by 2035.

“Over time, this will integrate Africa more into global value chains; not only for primary commodities but also for manufactured goods and services that will help keep value in Africa. We will receive innovative skills that are available to the rest of the world and provide the continent with a more robust system, which will enable it to better deal with shocks to supply chains,” he explained.

The Minister responsible for Trade and Industry, Kobina Tahir Hammond – who was represented by his Deputy, Michael Okyere Baafi, as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident representative in Ghana, Angela Lusigi, both pledged their support for strengthening sustainable supply chains.