A new framework for US-Africa trade relations focused on agriculture and food can advance African food security while positioning US businesses to benefit from Africa’s growing food market, which is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. Efforts by the United States focused on bolstering regional trade and harmonizing food standards and regulations across countries would drive economic growth while improving the availability and affordability of nutritious foods throughout Africa.
- The African agriculture and food sector is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. Congress has several legislative opportunities this year to ensure the United States is positioned to tap this burgeoning market—most notably by renewing Trade Promotion Authority and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Combining strong commercial policy with effective development policy will significantly advance food security objectives in Africa.
- Putting the right trade policies in place is essential to meeting food security goals. Africa is currently on course to produce just 15 percent of its estimated food demand in 2030. While international trade alone cannot eradicate food insecurity, it can alleviate it by filling the gap between a country’s demand for food and its long-term ability to produce food.
- Improvements in regional trade and harmonization of standards and regulations would drive economic growth while improving the availability and affordability of nutritious foods throughout Africa.
- AGOA is the focal point of US-Africa trade relations, but the program does not benefit Africa’s agriculture sector enough, and it is not designed to incentivize regional integration or address Africa’s own barriers to food trade. This neither aligns with other US investments in Africa’s food security nor positions US companies to take advantage of Africa’s growing agriculture and food sector.
- A new dimension of US-Africa trade relations should be centered around five goals that address key barriers to the agriculture and food sector:
- Enable access to modern seeds and technologies by smallholder farmers.
- Move food more cheaply and efficiently across African borders.
- Eliminate barriers to regional markets that can help feed Africa.
- Improve the legal environment for responsible investment in African agriculture.
- Reduce vulnerability to ad hoc government interventions that restrict African countries’ ability to import affordable food.
- These goals can be achieved through a new food security framework for US-Africa trade relations encompassing the following actions:
- Create a US-Africa Food Dialogue with an agenda dedicated to advancing regional economic integration, reducing technical regulations and standards barriers to agriculture and food trade, and implementing trade facilitation measures.
- Boost US government staffing in the economic agencies to align economic growth, food security, and trade capacity-building goals.
- Amend AGOA to better support African agriculture.
- Focus existing US-Africa regional trade talks on investment agreements.
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About the Author
Andrea Durkin served as a US government trade negotiator with the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the International
Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce. She represented the United States in free trade agreement negotiations as well as in the World Trade Organization and United Nations. She previously managed a global staff responsible for public policy and external relations at an American Fortune 100 life sciences company prior to launching an independent consulting firm, Sparkplug. Ms. Durkin has taught international trade and investment policy for the past 10 years as an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program, from which she graduated with distinction.