Agriculture holds a very strategic position in the economies of COMESA countries, being a region vast in natural and human resources with a great potential for industrial and regional integration. Within this entire dimension, the opportunity and growth for SMEs and small-scale holders in the agriculture sector is usually forgotten and needs to be strengthened.
Africa and COMESA remain a net importer of food and grains. For instance, the food import bill is estimated(2017) to be around US$35 Billion with almost 80% of this being imports from outside the COMESA region. With a region which lauds itself as the hub of agriculture, where agriculture is at the centre of livelihoods support, rural economy and food security, it is essential that we develop strategies which can boost the competitiveness of small-scale producers in agriculture supply chains. Assuredly, so with the deficit and population growth there exist an immense potential in investment in agriculture, supporting agro-supply chains and focusing on agro- processing and other high value crops like horticulture, dairy and livestock.
In 2017, CBC started implementing the Project termed; ‘Towards Fostering Business and Trade within the Supply Chain Networks along the Transport Corridors in COMESA Agro- Industry Corridor Project”, with the support of the Africa Development Bank- Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Trust Fund . It included developing a mapping and assessment report on the potential agri-business and other industry partnerships between suppliers and potential buyers along the transport corridors of Eastern and Southern Africa. And assessing the level of trade along the corridors and the various challenges, training needs and capacity issues that should be addressed to promote corridor supply chains. This is complimented by a business-guide that provides information on the purchasing requirements needed by key buyer industries along the transport corridors, identify high demand products, suppliers along the corridors.
This Report provides a mapping of agriculture production, businesses and trade along the corridors. It also identifies the key business constraints faced by SMEs and larger businesses in cross border trade, relating to regional supply chain partnerships. The main objective was to show how corridors can generate economies of scale in agriculture and other priority sectors through fostering potential business partnerships along the corridors. By addressing the key challenges of market access and bridging the market information gap, this is an essential step in advancing sustainable and inclusive supply chain development in the agro- industry sector for the COMESA region. The second output of this report is a regional business guide. This guide will be used as a business facilitation instrument that will facilitate and promote business partnerships and inform investments within the COMESA region.
The COMESA Business Council will continue to work with various partners and stakeholders, to support the development of SMEs and ensure their participation in regional value and supply chains as key to boosting intra-regional trade and growing competitive local brands.
The report was developed as part of CBC’s activities under the Agro - Industry Workgroup to support the development of sustainable supply chains within the region. The report covers a study carried out in 2017, with validations in 2018, respectively. The report has guided key advocacy positions for the Agro- industry workgroup in the CBC, and has also informed the development of the CBC Business Facilitation Handbook which was launched in 2019. The information used was derived from various sources, including relevant international and regional reports and country trade profiles. In addition, interviews were carried out with key public and private stakeholders along the Northern and North- South Corridor countries and also feedback from validation meetings by Agro-Industry Workgroup. These stakeholders are appreciated for their time and input which has enabled a more in-depth assessment.
Some key document reports from the workgroups include;