by Happy Mulolani

AFRICA is spending about US$50 billion every year importing food from other parts of the world. This situation poses an opportunity for African countries to reposition themselves in a bid to make the continent food secure.

This led the African Union Commission to conceptualise the Common African Agro-Parks (CAAPs) aimed at attracting private investments to establish transboundary mega agro industrial hub on the continent.

The Common African Agro-Parks is a mega initiative of the African Union to create regional agro-industrial hubs aimed at responding to the continent’s demand for interventions at boosting local processing and regional trade for agricultural commodities and their value chains.

To come up with innovative solutions to drive the CAAPs, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) hosted member states who convened in Lusaka recently to share ideas and experiences to better address the intra and regional trade meant to enhance agricultural commodities and value chains.

The CAAPs will help the agro-allied sector of the Africa economy to deliver on the AU Agenda 2063 aspirations within the framework of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Initiated in 2019, CAAPs is one of the initiatives of Comprehensive African Agricultural Programme (CAADP) to be implemented within the framework of the African Union (AU) agenda 2063 to achieve the CAADP Malabo commitments, particularly the commitment to “triple intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and services.”

The programme seeks to promote and facilitate local and regional as well as food production. In this way, achieving self-sufficiency of key agriculture commodities in Africa remains a critical milestone.

CAAPs Programme Coordinator, FARA Anselme Vodounhessi explains that CAAPs aspires to stimulate local and regional private sector investment in agriculture.

Mr. Vodounhessi says Africa has abundant resources but need to actualise economic opportunities by aggressively engaging in value chains in the agriculture sector which are viable and profitable.

He reaffirms Africa has lots of arable and abundant land which needs to be exploited in order to create and build a desired Africa.

Generally, Africa has good strategies but the major bottleneck is the implementation. According to Chief, Regional Division for Africa, UNIDO Victor Djemba explains that coordination of key actors in the implementation process of value chains in the agriculture sector remains problematic.

Mr. Djemba acknowledges that the private sector does a lot work but in isolation, hence the need for them to work in a concerted manner with sector players. This, he argues requires the proposed industrial parks to work effectively, needs inclusivity of private sector participation from project inception within the existing structures.

“It’s not the work of one entity but all entities need to be involved for a successful development of key players in the establishment and development of industrial parks,” he said.

Mr. Djemba said key players need to be involved in the whole process of implementation.

“Involving investors from inception requires embracing the laws and rules of both countries to provide an enabling environment for industrial parks to thrive,” he said.

Rural Development, Agro-Industries Agro-Industrial Parks Unit, UNIDO Project Officer Andrew Goodwin explains that everything which is set-up in agro-processing zones is business focused and has to be a long-term approach. Therefore, there must be commitment to develop agro-processing zones in industrial parks. It is obvious this approach needs an enabling environment to succeed.

Mr. Goodwin further says industrial parks are able to flourish through leases and services offered to the public.

For instance, industrial parks in Ethiopia and Senegal have been successful because they make their revenue from generation developers as they have invested in building sheds, installed power, water and other necessities within the parks.

These processing companies provide services such as commercial services, resource centres, among others which enable them to broaden resource base and maximise on their  profits. Its also imperative to take cognizant of the prevailing climate change conditions. This should inform sector players to build climate resilience.

Mr Goodwin said these integrated agro-food parks refers to central processing hubs which strive to reach out to rural areas from world transformation centres. For example, breeding, storing, collection centres at farmer level and cooperatives would also have these centres for processing.

He further said it was impressive that farmers in Ethiopia and Senegal are developed with cooperative unions, which closely work with the Ministry of Agriculture and also have bidding bilateral agreements.

With the success model of Ethiopia and Senegal, it is clear agriculture is the answer to creating prosperity and will always be the most economically viable sector to focus on for generations to come.

CAAPs aspirations is for member states to mobilise domestic resources to invest these into agro-parks and ensure a food secure continent. It is imperative to take into account the success of this programme needs a lot of resource mobilisation. The member states can co-create and unlock opportunities for the transboundary setting to enable Africa flourish. – National Agricultural Information Services.  

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