by Happy Mulolani

Common African Agro-Parks (CAAPs) are vehicles aimed at driving cross border projects to leverage on initiatives which focus on priority or strategic commodities. It is envisioned this approach will spur economic development and transformation in Africa, as espoused within the framework of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063.

Principal Advisor, Value chains, Office of the Secretary General Themba Khumalo explains that CAAPs involves agreed actions between two countries to identify trade opportunities.

“Our target is to have excess food for trade and where there are domestic projects that will be supported, CAAPs aims to promote regional integration and trade,” Mr. Khumalo said.

Mr. Themba Khumalo, Principal Advisor, Value chains, Office of the Secretary General, AfCFTA.

To catalyze CAAPs, it’s about countries justifying their projects within their Regional Economic Communities (REC) for the implementation of the Common African Agro-Parks programme. Once countries identify and concretize their projects, they need to sign agreements and trade. For these CAAPs to be viable and translate into tangible results, there is a need to ensure private sector investment.

Mr. Khumalo says when pursuing these investments, there will be a need for private sector players to be able to present their projects and mobilize resources to actualize trade agreements.

He clarifies whatever projects exist in countries aside the identified CAAPs continues although it is better to be enshrined in the regional investment plans for purposes of recognition as a CAAPs regional integration plan.”

“We need to radically change the way we work to actualize and achieve the goals of the CAAPs,” Mr. Khumalo says.

He advised that countries need to look at their own domestic interests, what exists and how best it can be scaled up. This should be coupled with a commitment to create an enabling policy environment for trade and, among others, to avoid any barriers between countries wanting to promote trade in their RECs.

Mr. Khumalo explained that for the CAAPs to be recognized and supported, a certain criterion needs to be met as spelled out in the Abuja declaration.

The Abuja declaration criteria outlines some of the critical elements of setting up a CAAPs within a RECs. Among them is considering the nature of strategic importance in relation to integration, economic growth, and food security. Further, there is a need to ascertain what is on the ground in the context of feasibility of project, as there must be a base to engage some of the partners for pre-feasibility.

This means when looking at most entities, they will be needed for feasibility study, which will entail the community having basic information to decide and demonstrate the ability to promote regional boosting. Overall, there is need to look at whether countries can commit from a policy point of view as a country outside investor zones to enable private sector to make those decisions. It is key for countries to critically look at their comparative advantages and harmonize their investments with financial commitment towards agreed value chains.

A typical case of a CAAPs is the trade agreement between Zimbabwe and Zambia dubbed “Common Agriculture Industrial Park (CAP)” signed between the two countries in 2021. The partnership between the two countries is valued at over US$12 million.

Speaking in Lusaka during the inaugural coordination meeting of Regional Economic Communities (REC) for the implementation of the Common African Agro-Parks programme, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Chief Director Florence Makombe from Zimbabwe, explains that the trade agreement rides on the already existing bilateral trade.

Chief Director Florence Makombe, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Zimbabwe

Ms. Makombe disclosed that the agriculture industrial park between the two countries includes the following value chains: Soyabean, dairy, wheat, horticulture, maize, and fisheries.

“There has been progress made on the Zimbabwe and Zambia on the agreement. There is need to adjust from the last meeting held in Harare were looking at the legal framework,” She said.

Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Director Industry, Musokotwane Sichizuwe says Zambia has the capacity in terms of the agriculture sector also given the favorable weather.

Mr. Musokotwane Sichizuwe (left), Zambian Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry with colleague Chipoka Mulenga (right)

Mr. Sichizwe says once a feasibility is conducted in Zambia, it will help unpack most of these criteria requirements.

“Zambia has prioritized farm blocks. Initially, the focus was on special economic zones but now it is extended to farm blocks. It aligns well given that we are trying to do some of these things at a regional level,” he disclosed.

Mr. Brian Ngandu, Ministry of Agriculture, Zambia

Ministry of Agriculture, Brian Ngandu says Zambia and Zimbabwe have enjoyed a long-lasting trade relationship. This is an advantage to both countries as their identified trade agreement is likely to stimulate increased trade.

While, Zambia and Zimbabwe may not have same the land polices, the implication is that both countries may need to reform policies to align with goals of CAAPs and strengthen this agro park initiative to attract and unlock business opportunities in order to enhance trade between the two countries. – National Agricultural Information Services

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