Trade in Africa: un­fin­ished busi­ness

Wors­en­ing cli­mate change could af­fect the re­gion’s econ­omy

Africa Renewal - - Front Page - By Richard Mu­nang and Jesica An­drews

$50bn Value of Africa’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion of sta­ple food per year

The dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of cli­mate change are al­ready be­ing felt across the planet, in­clud­ing in Africa. The 2011 drought-in­duced famine in the Horn of Africa af­fected more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple, claimed 257,000 lives and cost over $1 bil­lion in dam­ages. The re­cent Africa Adap­ta­tion Gap Re­port by the UN En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme warns that cli­mate change could re­duce to­tal crop yields in sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa by as much as 20% by 2070. Worse still, it could be­gin to af­fect Africa’s trade po­ten­tial. For ex­am­ple, a pro­jected sea-level rise in Tan­za­nia of 70 cen­time­tres by 2070 could dev­as­tate the port city of Dar es Salaam, its largest and rich­est city and a ma­jor player in East Africa trade, and cost the coun­try about $10 bil­lion in prop­erty dam­ages and re­lated losses. En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists warn that ris­ing sea lev­els could cause se­vere flood­ing, sub­merge land and de­stroy coastal ecosys­tems.

Is Africa un­der a cli­mate change siege? Can the re­gion ex­pand its trade un­der cur­rent con­di­tions? Ex­perts say yes to both ques­tions, but, in ad­di­tion to re­duc­ing bar­ri­ers to new and ex­ist­ing trade, coun­tries will have to use their ecosys­tems to pro­tect the con­ti­nent’s pro­duc­tive sec­tors from the neg­a­tive im­pact of cli­mate change. Re­silient ecosys­tems are required to pro­mote the wise use of bio­di­ver­sity and nat­u­ral in­puts; such wise use will pre­serve the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment from degra­da­tion and en­sure that it re­mains pro­duc­tive and con­tin­ues to con­trib­ute to economic devel­op­ment.

Bar­ri­ers, blocks and blows

With the World Bank stress­ing that food pro­duc­tion for rapidly grow­ing ur­ban and ru­ral pop­u­la­tions will be the largest growth op­por­tu­nity for African farm­ers, the agri­cul­tural sec­tor must come up with cli­mate-proof strate­gies. While Africa cur­rently pro­duces sta­ple food worth $50 bil­lion per year, the bank has found that the re­gion could add an ex­tra $20 bil­lion an­nu­ally if it dis­man­tles trade bar­ri­ers in agri­cul­ture. For ex­am­ple, West Africa could cut its trans­port costs in half in less than a decade if its agri­cul­tural trade poli­cies were de­signed to serve as build­ing blocks rather than as road­blocks to economic growth, says the bank.

Ad­di­tion­ally, as cli­mate change wors­ens, in­dus­tries and agri­cul­ture will need to re­spond. Ex­perts rec­om­mend in­creased pro­duc­tion of En­vi­ron­men­tal Goods and Ser­vices ( EGS) as a vi­able op­tion. The

EGS are ben­e­fits that can be de­rived from healthy ecosys­tems and in­clude clean air, fresh wa­ter, pu­rifi­ca­tion of air and wa­ter from forests, pol­li­na­tion of crops and ground­wa­ter recharge through wet­lands. Val­ued at $690 bil­lion in 2006, in­creas­ing global de­mand for EGS could be worth $1.9 tril­lion by 2020, ac­cord­ing to UNEP. To boost trade, there­fore, ex­perts stress the need to di­ver­sify ex­ports be­yond com­modi­ties and for gov­ern­ments to ini­ti­ate poli­cies that al­low more peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in trade. But does sus­tain­able use of ecosys­tems ac­com­plish this goal?

Boost­ing trade through ecosys­tems

“Re­think­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties” is the phrase devel­op­ment ex­perts use to re­in­force the point that it is pos­si­ble to use nat­u­ral re­sources as pro­duc­tive as­sets. By us­ing ecosys­tem ser­vices prop­erly, Africa could pro­tect its nat­u­ral re­sources and in­crease its trade vol­ume within the con­ti­nent and with the rest of the world. And such pro­tec­tion comes with min­i­mal or no ad­di­tional costs.

A few ecosys­tem ap­proaches, such as the use of “na­tive pol­li­na­tors,” are al­ready gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity. Also re­ferred to as “the farmer be­friend­ing the bee,” this ap­proach pre­sumes bees’ habi­tats are pro­tected when farm­ers min­i­mize tillage, al­low crops to flower, plant hedgerows or wind­breaks with flow­er­ing shrubs, re­duce or elim­i­nate pes­ti­cide use and work with sur­round­ing land own­ers to pro­tect nat­u­ral ar­eas. By in­vest­ing in the pro­tec­tion of bees’ nat­u­ral habi­tats, farm­ers are in­vest­ing in their crops. Bees and the sus­tain­able use of other man­age­ment tech­niques can in­crease crop yields by as much as 5%, ac­cord­ing to the Pro­ceed­ings


jour­nal, pub­lished by the Royal So­ci­ety of Bi­o­log­i­cal Sciences.

More­over, th­ese tech­niques re­ward farm­ers with bet­ter-qual­ity pro­duce to sell. For ex­am­ple, in Burk­ina Faso, where shea nuts are the sec­ond-most-ex­ported cash crop (af­ter cot­ton), ecosys­tem-based tech­niques could im­prove the qual­ity of shea nuts and en­sure sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion meth­ods. This was the case re­cently when one ecosys­tem-based ap­proach ( EbA) project trained 120 women to pro­duce high­qual­ity shea but­ter, which led to in­creased sales and an ex­tra $18 per month for each woman on av­er­age. An EbA is a farm­ing method that pro­motes con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity through in­te­grated man­age­ment of land, wa­ter and liv­ing re­sources. The women now have an even greater mo­ti­va­tion to pro­tect their five hectares of shea trees and as­so­ci­ated ecosys­tem (which is part of their pro­duc­tion chain) from de­struc­tion and de­for­esta­tion.

Across West Africa, between 4 mil­lion and 5 mil­lion women de­pend al­most en­tirely on shea nuts for their liveli­hood, ac­cord­ing to the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion. Ap­ply­ing EbAs widely could in­crease pro­duc­tion for lo­cal con­sump­tion and for ex­ports.

In­creas­ing trade in Africa

In a num­ber of ways, Africa could boost trade by ex­ploit­ing its vast nat­u­ral re­sources us­ing ecosys­tem- based ap­proaches. First, EbAs can in­crease agri­cul­tural trade vol­umes through higher crop yields. In Zam­bia, farm­ers in­creased crop yields by 60% by switch­ing from mono­cul­ture prac­tices to in­ter­crop­ping and other sus­tain­able meth­ods. Sec­ond, greater use of EbAs will en­cour­age a shift from tra­di­tional to sus­tain­able farm­ing meth­ods be­cause the global mar­ket for EGS is grow­ing rapidly. EbA prac­tices could po­ten­tially help Africa reap the ben­e­fits of EGS.

Third, due to the di­verse crops be­ing pro­duced, EbAs will pro­vide Africa with ac­cess to new mar­kets. Through agro­forestry (in­ter­crop­ping, bar­rier crops and ni­tro­gen-fix­ing crop use), small­holder farm­ers can pro­duce more di­verse crops. And fi­nally, bet­ter-qual­ity or more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts will give Africa ac­cess to higher-qual­ity mar­kets. As with the shea but­ter project in Burk­ina Faso, EbA prod­ucts can en­ter “sus­tain­able” mar­kets, where they fetch higher prices.

In­tro­duce trade re­forms

Even if En­vi­ron­men­tal Goods and Ser­vices lead to in­creased trade op­por­tu­ni­ties, bar­ri­ers to trade in Africa will per­sist. The World Bank’s pri­mary rec­om­men­da­tions are re­forms in the trade sec­tor and the strength­en­ing of in­sti­tu­tions that de­sign and im­ple­ment reg­u­la­tions. The bank wants African coun­tries to re­duce the cost of trad­ing across bor­ders. Ac­cord­ing to the bank, costs as­so­ci­ated with trad­ing in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa are twice as high as those in East Asia and the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Economic Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment (OECD) coun­tries. It ad­vo­cates for the re­moval of a range of non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers to trade, in­clud­ing re­stric­tive rules about ori­gin of goods, im­port and ex­port bans and costly li­cens­ing. In the sub-Sa­ha­ran African re­gion, notes the bank, it takes an av­er­age of 38 days to im­port and 32 days to ex­port goods across bor­ders—two of the long­est wait times in the world. How­ever, while new EGS prod­ucts may get caught up in th­ese bar­ri­ers, ex­perts be­lieve that mo­bile bank­ing and other in­no­va­tive cross-bor­der sys­tems could im­prove the sit­u­a­tion.

Al­ready en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are say­ing that ecosys­tem ser­vices should cease to be seen as free and lim­it­less; rather, they should be pro­tected against the ef­fects of cli­mate change. The con­sen­sus, how­ever, is that EGS in African economies could bring greater economic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits to the con­ti­nent. This is the triple win. Dr. Richard Mu­nang is UNEP’s Africa re­gional cli­mate change co­or­di­na­tor. Jesica An­drews is an ecosys­tem adap­ta­tion of­fi­cer with UNEP’s re­gional of­fice for Africa.

Ox­fam/Pablo Tosco

Arid soils in Mau­ri­ta­nia are some of the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

UN Photo/Evan Sch­nei­der

Women sell­ing mango jam in Sene­gal.

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