Praise has been won by West Africa for elaborating a regional agricultural policy, the ECOWAP, that could go a long way in promoting food security in the region. However, how this vision ties in with the region’s trade policy is anything but simple – says Quentin de Roquefeuil.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is the one of the few regions in Africa to have an elaborated regional policy for agriculture and food security, the ECOWAP (ECOWAS Agricultural Policy). Implementation has been slow, but it is on track, with thematic working groups fleshing out the details and concrete steps to be taken to concretise the region’s vision for its agricultural sector. In the process, the links between the region’s nascent agricultural policy, and its equally young trade policy, are becoming clearer.
Regional food sovereignty?
Conceptually speaking, some aspects of the ECOWAP are arguably inward looking, focusing on building the region’s productive capacities and developing regional markets, with a little help from the state.
At a recent conference I attended, a consensus seemed to be emerging: whereas approaches that aim at closing off national markets to agricultural imports had clearly failed in the past, replicating such approaches at the regional level could be a viable option. Protecting a bigger, more competitive market (given that internal barriers to regional trade are removed), coordinated with supply side efforts, could overcome the failures of past attempts at self-sufficiency.
This sort of thinking is, to a certain extent, present in the ECOWAP, where the concept of food sovereignty is clearly mentioned. For example, West Africa plans to build its productive capacities and develop a comparative advantage in rice production, alongside a few other key agricultural goods deemed essential to food security and rural incomes.
Another example would be the design of the region’s food reserves, which, as it currently stands, intends to source some of its stocks directly from regional producers, with heated debates underway as to whether the food reserves should also aim at stabilizing prices on regional markets.
- See more at: http://www.ecdpm-talkingpoints.org/dilemmas-for-west-africas-agricultural-and-trade-policies/#sthash.m3FdVQw8.dpuf.