Chapter 7. Integrating value chains in West Africa and the agri-food industry

In 2020, economic growth was affected in the 15 countries in the area, but to varying extents. The countries most exposed to external shocks were very seriously affected. In Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, real GDP fell by between 14% (Cabo Verde) and 1.8% (Nigeria) (IMF, 2021). Growth also slowed, from 6.2% to 2.3% in Côte d’Ivoire between 2019 and 2020, and by 5.6 percentage points in Ghana. The cause: the various restrictions imposed locally and internationally, which disrupted supply chains and affected commodity prices.

Flows of goods and services contracted sharply in most countries. Exports fell by an average 15% between 2019 and 2020 in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Imports also contracted sharply in most of the countries, falling by between 25% for those most affected, such as Nigeria, and 2% for Guinea-Bissau (Figure 7.3). Nonetheless, six countries grew their imports of goods and services, bringing the average rate of change in ECOWAS to -2% (IMF, 2021).

Financial inflows into the sub-region were also affected by the severity of the crisis. The ECOWAS diaspora’s remittances fell by around 20% over 2019-20 (World Bank, 2021). Remittances to Nigeria, which by itself accounted for 69% of inflows into West Africa in 2019, fell by 28% in 2020. The figure for Ghana, the second largest recipient of remittances in the sub-region with 11% of the total in 2019, fell by 12%. Additionally, there was an 18% drop in FDI over the same period (UNCTAD, 2021).

Support for production is a must for sustainable economic recovery post-COVID. Generally speaking, growth resumed in all countries but has not yet regained pre-pandemic levels, especially where per capita wealth creation is concerned. At current rates, an initial group of eight countries should be able to regain their pre-COVID-19 levels of GDP per capita by end 2021 (Figure 7.4). However, the other seven are unlikely to attain their 2019 per capita levels before end-2024, or even 2025. Budgetary room for manoeuvre is limited. The various emergency support measures for households and businesses introduced by governments in 2020 have already placed the public finances under stress in several countries. In Côte d’Ivoire, the debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 41.2% to 45.7% between 2019 and 2020, while in Ghana it rose from 64% to 78% between September 2019 and September 2020, and in Nigeria from 29.2% to 35% (IMF, 2021).

The weakness of the processing industry is still a major concern at sub-regional level. In West Africa, production and exports include primarily unprocessed agricultural and mining products whose prices depend on world prices. By way of illustration, the contribution of manufacturing to GDP in the sub-region is very low and has been on a downward trajectory for several years, falling from 16% in 2000 to 12% in 2019 (World Bank, 2021). At the same time, the goods exported from West Africa are chiefly primary commodities: minerals and food (Figure 7.5).

The bulk of the products exported are still at an early stage of processing and have little foreign value-added. Panel A of Figure 7.6 illustrates the low backward participation by ECOWAS countries in GVCs compared to the world average for the period 1990-2019. In other words, inputs from foreign countries represent a limited share of exports from the sub-region. Forward participation is much greater, even though it inherently involves much fewer benefits than strong backward participation. The bulk of goods exported are used as intermediate goods by the importing countries. Between 2015 and 2019, ECOWAS countries had, on average, an annual forward GVC participation amounting to 39.2% of exported value-added and an annual backward GVC participation amounting to 14.5% of exported value-added (Figure 7.6).

The ECOWAS countries are therefore upstream of the production process compared to the rest of the world. As such, the rewards associated with international trade are lower for them because they do not draw as much benefit as the rest of the world from strong backward participation, in particular with regard to quality improvements and reductions in the prices of final goods produced using better quality, imported inputs that cost less (Fally and Hillberry, 2018).

A number of key sectors are the chief contributors from ECOWAS countries to GVCs. They include mining and quarries, which generate the bulk of forward and backward participation (Figure 7.7). Agriculture and food also feature highly. This is reflected inter alia by the significance of foods and beverages in the region’s exports, which constitute on average 10% of total flows over the period 2015-19 according to data from the CEPII, compared to 5% for the African continent in its entirety, 7% for Latin America and the Caribbean, and 2% for low-income Asian countries. At the same time, 6% of West African imports were of foods and beverages, compared to 5% for the African continent in its entirety, and 3% for low-income Asian and Latin American countries.

Additionally, new “greenfield” plans for investment by other African countries are greater in some sectors. Between 2016 and 2021, the communications infrastructure, chemicals, construction materials and financial services sectors attracted proportionately more investment, both actual and projected, from the rest of Africa than other sectors (Figure 7.8). Hence their importance for generating economic linkages between African countries and encouraging economic integration. However, such linkages account for only a small fraction of forward and backward participation in GVCs by the countries in the sub-region (Figure 7.7).

It is clear that West African countries’ participation in RVCs is fairly limited. Very few inputs used in production processes come from other countries in the region. On average, 6.5% of added value exported by ECOWAS member countries to their sub regional partners was re-exported to third countries (outside the sub-region) in 2015 (Figure 7.9). By way of illustration, the figure was 26% for members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), suggesting also that the level of regional economic integration is well below its potential.

In 2019, only 17% of exports from ECOWAS countries went to African countries, compared to 39% to Europe and 35% to Asia (Figure 7.10). Having said that, 61% of exports to Africa from ECOWAS countries went to countries in the sub-region, implying that the production linkages between West African countries are greater than with the rest of the continent.

Supply chains have proved to be particularly fragile. The restrictions adopted regionally and internationally – land border closures and travel restrictions – seriously disrupted the food supply in West Africa. The movement of transhumant herds was severely affected in Benin and some areas of Niger. Basic food prices were higher than the average for the five previous years (CILSS, 2020). The incomes of itinerant salespeople and restaurateurs fell. No fewer than 44% of households working in the informal sector said when questioned that the crisis was linked to a sharp drop in their income (Koffi et al., 2020). Very quickly, in fact during a video conference on 30 March 2020, it became apparent that the ministers for food and agriculture were concerned about the consequences of prolonged disruption to regional supply channels. As a result, several restrictions were eased or lifted in May 2020.

Several government measures were deployed to keep the agri-food sector afloat, especially in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. In Burkina Faso, CFAF (XOF) 30 billion was earmarked for the procurement of agricultural inputs and cattlefeed. In Côte d’Ivoire, around XOF 250 billion in financial support was set aside for producers of the chief export products (among them cocoa and cashew nuts), and to support the production of food crops (Government of Côte d’Ivoire, 2020). In Ghana, the number of people receiving fertilisers and seeds rose from 1.2 to 1.5 million (MoFEP, 2020). Additionally, support for businesses in the informal sector was established in several countries: XOF 5 billion for Burkinabe vendors of fruits and vegetables, and XOF 100 billion to support all informal sector stakeholders in Burkina Faso (Government of Burkina Faso, 2020).

Direct financial support and food distribution were also provided to the most vulnerable people. For example, Côte d’Ivoire earmarked XOF 170 billion to support the most disadvantaged households (Government of Côte d’Ivoire, 2020), and XOF 69 billion in Senegal (OECD/SWAC, 2020b). In April 2020, the Government of Togo launched the “Novissi” initiative to provide monthly support to the poorest people throughout the state of emergency. Three weeks later, the programme had 1.3 million people on its register and had already made first payments of between XOF 10 500 and XOF 12 500 (around USD 20) to 500 000 people’s personal electronic wallets to meet basic needs (food, water, electricity, communication). In an article published in May 2020, two Nobel Prize winners in Economics, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, welcomed this initiative (Duflo and Banerjee, 2020).

Despite these significant efforts, food security is still an issue in the region. Pre-COVID projections were that 11.4 million people were likely to experience acute food insecurity between March and May 2020, rising to 17 million between June and August – the lean season between two harvests when food stores are at their lowest (OECD/SWAC, 2020a). The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation. In 2020, crop production rose by 5.1% compared to 2019, and by 14.8% compared to the average for the five previous years within the West African Economic and Monetary Union – WAEMU (BCEAO, 2021). However, West Africa is the region of the world where under-nutrition has grown the most, from 12.9% to 18.7% between 2019 and 2020, affecting 75.2 million people in 2020 compared to 50.6 million in 2019 (FAO et al., 2021).

The agri-food economy is a key vehicle for job creation. The agricultural sector is the main job-provider in the region: over 50% of people live in rural areas, and 65% of the active labour force works in the agricultural sector. Women account for 80% of employment in the processing of agricultural production, 70% in marketing and close to 90% in sales of ready-to-eat products consumed in the street (Allen, Heinrigs and Heo, 2018; OECD/SWAC, 2019). In total, the food economy in West Africa employs 82 million people, and accounts for 66% of all employment in the region (Allen, Heinrigs and Heo, 2018; OECD/SWAC, 2021).

The dynamics of regional demand provide trading opportunities to farmers and to agri-food business and industries. In 2018, the value of regional agricultural production was USD 84 billion (FAOSTAT, 2020), with greater downstream opportunities. The total contribution of the food economy, from agricultural production to catering services, via marketing and processing, is USD 260 billion in West Africa, or 35% of GDP (Allen, Heinrigs and Heo, 2018). In West African households, food accounts for 50% of total spending, on average. In Nigeria, for example, growth in the chicken sector is assessed to be 20% per year for the period 2010-20 (Adeyeye, 2017). Several local companies service the growing demand from towns in the south west using maize producer networks in the centre and north of the country for poultry-feed (Ghins and Zougbédé, 2019).

Food demand is focused more on processed products. Demographic growth and rapid urbanisation are sustaining this demand. The total population, estimated at 400 million people in 2020, is set to reach 540 million in 2030 (OECD/SWAC, 2020a). Urban transition changes food habits, particularly with the emergence of a significant African middle class which covers incomes of between USD 2-USD 20 per day inclusive per person in purchasing power parity (PPP). Towns account for over 67% of food demand, while urbanisation is producing changes in methods of consumption. Although food accounts for 55% of income, households prefer processed products (fruit juices, pastas, canned goods) which offer a better fit logistically and in terms of preparation (Allen and Heinrigs, 2016). Local processing is no longer sufficient to meet demand. Between 2016 and 2020, the ECOWAS countries imported close to USD 60 billion-worth of food products, two thirds of which (67.2%) were semi-processed or processed (Figure 7.12).

In terms of volumes of production, the region is in a dominant position globally for several agricultural and food products (Table 7.1). Between five and nine West African countries regularly rank among the world’s top 20 producers of 10 or so agricultural products (AUC/OECD, 2019). In 2018, the region alone contributed more than 33.9% of Africa’s agri-food production, or USD 81.4 billion (FAOSTAT, 2020).

In terms of exports, agri-foods account for the highest proportion of the contents of a basket containing the top 20 products. Among the top 20 exports between 2016 and 2019, 15 were agri-food products and accounted for 33% of the basket’s value (Table 7.2). Thus the agri-food sector provides the region with good prospects for specialisation. Local stakeholders have a solid base in the processing of several products such as vegetable oil, cassava by-products (Box 7.1), sugar-cane and tropical fruits. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are ploughing increasing investment into local cocoa processing. In Nigeria, industrial processing of wheat and powdered milk is developing using imported inputs (Hollinger and Staatz, 2015).

The three main links in the agricultural value chain – agricultural production, product processing and trade – are still subject to external and internal shocks that constrain the sector’s development. They include inefficient production caused by farming practices and environmental shocks; low processing rates as a result of poor development of human capital, the financial system and socio-economic infrastructures; and non-tariff barriers and unofficial fees (Table 7.3).

The energy supply is still insufficient and too unreliable to support the processing of some agricultural products. Electricity access and the reliability of the grid scored 51.5 and 40.5 respectively in 2019 on a scale of 0 to 100 (WEF, 2019). This implies that there are additional costs in preserving perishable foods and also has adverse effects on market prices. Initiatives are springing up to develop the renewable energies sector, but the rate of investment is still low. In Senegal, the national strategy to diversify energy sources has increased total power generation by 22% through connection to the grid of 168 MW of photovoltaic solar power, 51 MW of wind energy and 75 MW of hydroelectricity. Côte d’Ivoire is also awaiting construction of Africa’s first floating solar power station, which was announced in 2018.

Poorly developed logistics and transport infrastructures reduce opportunities for integration and adversely affect trade costs. The majority of rural areas of production are still cut off as a result of a dearth of information or inadequate transport infrastructure. The transport infrastructure deficit (roads, railways, railway network services), coupled with inadequate public service infrastructures and some specific services (marketplaces, warehouses, logistics services and communications networks, etc.) affect the efficiency of the food systems (OECD/SWAC, 2021). While 12 out of 15 countries (the exceptions being Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) have relatively extensive coastlines, the average liner shipping connectivity score was 13.6, and efficiency of seaport services was 40.8 on a scale of 0 to 100 (WEF, 2019). The region has only two railways linking landlocked countries, namely the Transrail (Dakar-Bamako) and Sitarail (Abidjan-Ouagadougou) corridors. Moreover, the lack of co-ordination in transit management, together with operational inefficiency, makes it difficult to optimise costs and the time taken to transport goods (WCO, 2014). There are several other emerging constraints linked to infrastructure quality, the high number of unchecked parallel corridors and the payment of illegal fees on the roads (Teravaninthorn and Raballand, 2009).

The control of agri-food value chains has occupied a central place in policy agendas in West Africa since the world food crisis in 2008. The ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) is part of “a modern and sustainable agriculture, based on the effectiveness and efficiency of family farms and the promotion of agricultural enterprises through private-sector involvement. While being productive and competitive in the intra-Community market and international markets, it must ensure food security and provide a decent income to its working population” (ECOWAS, 2017). In order to realise this potential, however, better tools are required, especially support for small local stakeholders and region-wide structuring of value chains. This section will focus on five strategic lines of action that can play a role in achieving those objectives.

Overall, AVCs have essentially grown up around the informal sector. In 2019, traditional agriculture still employed 42.19% of people in work. On average, 76.5% of West African workers are in vulnerable employment; the situation in Cabo Verde is somewhat better, at 35.2%. Around 69.9% of young people over 15 years of age working in the sector do so independently, 17.7% provide support to families, and barely 18.5% are in salaried employment (ILO, 2020).

In the short term, national and regional policies can harness digital resources to improve integration of informal sector stakeholders into value chains. Start-ups specialising in agritech and innovative services are mushrooming in West Africa. The region hosts Africa’s first unicorn (Jumia in Nigeria) as well as other dynamic start-ups in logistics (AgroCent; Kobo360) and e-commerce (Konga, Carmudi Janngo and Jovago), and especially the brightest rising stars in real-time mobile digital transactions (Interswitch, OPay, Flutterwave, etc.). Other promising innovations for agricultural development include shared-economy models, blockchain and digital tools for land rights (AUC/OECD, 2021).

Governments can work with tech companies to spread the best farming practices. Improving agricultural extension services and connecting the rural-urban supply chains can generate big wins in fighting pockets of poverty and informality in rural areas.

  • For example, since 2011, the multi-country programme myAgro has been working with more than 89 000 smallholders in Mali, Senegal and Tanzania in order to increase market access. It began by using mobile solutions as alternatives to credit and rapidly developed to provide full support at all levels, from delivery of high-quality inputs to training. This translates in figures to a rise of USD 178 in each farmer’s annual income and a 78% increase in production (Rieckmann, 2020).

  • Since 2012, in partnership with Cellulant Ltd, the Government of Nigeria has used e-wallet solutions on mobile phones to manage the distribution of seed and fertiliser in remote areas, thereby reducing inefficiencies (AUC/OECD, 2021). Similar models are in place in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Senegal (Goyal, 2014).

  • Additionally, a good number of large agro-industry businesses are working to establish services to help with traceability (Box 7.3). Mobile solutions of this kind enable leading stakeholders to interact with small local producers, resulting in larger transaction values and volumes (GSMA, 2016).

In addition, the cost of accessing services should continue to be reduced and the regulatory framework for e-commerce strengthened. The average cost of Internet services is four times higher than in other developing countries, while communications infrastructures are not fully utilised. In 2019, the Business to Consumer (B2C) index, which reflects capacity to engage in e-commerce, was only 26.2 in West Africa, and ranged from 5.4 (Niger) to 53.2 (Nigeria), giving an average value for Africa of 33.6 (UNCTAD, 2020). In March 2020, Ghana became the first African country to launch a universal QR code enabling all Ghanaians to make instant merchant payments from their mobile money wallets, bank accounts or international cards (GSMA, 2021).

The low levels of SME finance are a barrier to local processing. Between 2003-15, only Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger allocated more than 10% of the national budget to agriculture and sustainable development for at least five years (ECOWAS, 2017). Over the same period, the allocation made by West Africa as a whole amounted to 5% of the public purse. One of the resolutions in the Malabo Declaration of the African Union (AU) in 2014 was to reaffirm the member countries’ commitment to allocate at least 10% of public expenditure to agriculture. However, few of the countries in the region have succeeded in doing so regularly, despite the commitments they entered into.

Finance also involves harnessing private resources for agri-food. Although harnessing public resources is still paramount, the debate on finance should be widened so that all economic stakeholders in the sector have access to the financial services appropriate to their investment needs. Domestic credit to the private sector amounted to only 24% of GDP in 2019. The average score for financing of SMEs is 39.9, and venture capital availability is low (Table 7.5). The average score in the region for venture capital availability is only 26.1 out of 100, whereas the share of insurance premium volume in GDP is less than 1%. Poor development of local insurance markets has enormous effects on farmers when incidents occur.

Encouraging access to finance for entrepreneurs and SMEs in the agricultural sector is still a sine qua non for strengthening value chains during their development. The system to harness private finance could be more effective.

  • The bank loan guarantees provided by international bodies such as the French Development Agency (AFD) or the African Guarantee and Economic Co-operation Fund (FAGACE) to encourage access to local credit have a role to play. However, the bulk of guarantees awarded involve wide-ranging projects and should be better targeted to include small producers and local entrepreneurs. Co-operation with microcredit establishments that normally target these groups should therefore be stepped up.

  • Moreover, the widespread use of stock guarantees could also alleviate credit constraints. As noted by Brulé-Françoise et al. (2016), for example, storage and warehousing capacities, as well as infrastructures for compliance with standards, are among the elements still lacking in the sub-region.

Supporting producer co-operatives and organisations is vital because they play a key role in the development of value chains. Co-operatives open the way to technical and financial assistance, investment in adequate infrastructure (refrigerated storage in warehouses, machinery, etc.). They increase farmers’ bargaining power in purchases and sales and help to spread good agronomic practices. In addition, co-operatives facilitate the development of innovative activities such as certification and processing. For example:

  • In Mali, a group of farmers took the initiative to organise themselves into a co-operative named Yeleton. They then obtained finance from the banks and support from the Government to obtain a tractor to cultivate their communal and individual farms (Diama, 2020).

  • In Niger, the Made Bane Farmers’ Union of Falwell experienced a significant increase in production of quality seeds, and created inputs shops and grain banks. The members of the Union have received training on improved varieties suited to local conditions and were subsequently accredited as Certified Seed Producers, enabling them now to supply other unions (Diama, 2020).

  • In Togo, as part of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), the provision of parboiling equipment to groups such as the Femmes Vaillantes co-operative in Anié has enabled them to triple their productivity (World Bank, 2020b).

Follow-up actions aimed at agri-food businesses can be effective in building local processing capabilities. Improving the skills of AVC stakeholders is vital. In addition to the efforts required to improve the general level of formal education, follow-up centres offering training in agri-food business skills could be of huge benefit to the region. A large share of young people in employment are already out of the education system. One third of 15-29-year-olds, a significant proportion of the population, have no education (UNESCO, 2020).

The centres could provide short, practical training to the out-of-school population who are unemployed, to encourage them to go into agriculture or the processing of agricultural products. In Mali, the Baguinéda Centre de Formation en Entrepreneuriat Agricole (CFEAB) provides people in this category with short, 10-day training courses. The trainers go to the students in a dedicated mobile vehicle, teaching them how to manufacture various products such as hibiscus syrup (bissap) and zaban, tamarind syrup or mango jam (Le Cam, 2019). Since 2010, the centre has trained more than 2 000 out-of-school young people who now have a professional training certificate and a job in the AVC. In 2017, Senegal opened its first French-language agricultural university in West Africa (Université du Sine Saloum el Hâdj Ibrahima Niass), which aims to focus on local features to make agriculture a driver of growth. A number of co-operatives have been producing juices and jams for several decades, but there has been no proper structure in the sector for them to become canned, vacuum-packaged flagship exports. This is one statistic that could change as a result of the integrated agropolises that are under construction, which will incorporate centres for training young people in agri-business trades (Box 7.4).

Finally, it is important to facilitate women’s access to land tenure, in view of the significant contribution they make to agricultural output. Rates of discrimination against women in ten countries in the region are high or very high (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo). In Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Mali and Senegal, women represent 43% of the agricultural workforce on average, but only 8% of land owners (OECD, 2018). These gender disparities stem primarily from the predominance of discriminatory customary laws and poorly enforced legislative frameworks governing land and property. For example, Benin’s Rural Land Code (2007) grants equality in land ownership rights, but customary law stipulates that only men can inherit land.

West Africa is still one of the richest regions in terms of agricultural resources, but it must respond rapidly to environmental pressures. According to FAOSTAT (2020), it covers a total land area of 511.54 million hectares criss-crossed by major rivers, and 47.6% of the land is agricultural. In some countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo, over 50% of the land is arable. However, only 42.4% of the potential was exploited in 2018. Moreover, more than 1 million hectares of land in Mali, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana are covered by inland waters that are necessary for irrigation. The region also benefits from maritime coasts with a wealth of fisheries resources that also provide opportunities for local fish processing.

Agricultural and grazing systems remain very extensive and exert pressure on the region’s ecosystems and available forestry resources. Between 1975 and 2013, forest cover shrank by 37% to only 16.6%, compared to the African average of 21.4%. Additionally, around 90% of pastureland and 80% of cultivation areas in the West African Sahel are significantly affected by soil degradation, including erosion (FAO, 2015).

Attenuating the effect of climate variability on farms’ productivity will therefore involve adequate application of fertilisers and the use of improved seeds. In 2018, for example, the amount of nutrient nitrogen by area of cultivated land in West Africa was only 7.5 t/ha compared to an average of 70 t/ha in the rest of the world (Figure 7.13). In Ghana, the low demand for fertilisers is the result of modest yield response (Kolavalli, 2019). Higher returns depend on complementary actions such as the use of improved seeds and better agronomic practices. The development of the different varieties of New Rice for Africa (NERICA) by the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) illustrates this and has contributed to raising the yield obtained by farmers in some countries in the region (Dibba et al., 2012; Diagne, Midingoyi and Kinkingninhoun-Medagbe, 2013). This is also the case for the development and distribution of improved cocoa seeds by the National Agricultural Research Centre (Centre National de Recherche Agronomique, CNRA) in Côte d’Ivoire, which doubled yields (CCC, 2014) while helping to combat viruses that infect cocoa plantations (Box 7.5).

Additional irrigation is also crucial. In 2017, only 10% of irrigable land was actually irrigated (FAO, 2020), the same as in 2007 (9%). Higginbottom et al. (2021) attribute this situation to the fact that projects are sometimes too ambitious and prioritise low-value crops, reducing the projects’ economic viability. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions such as the Kpong Irrigation Scheme (KIS) in Ghana, which enables local rice producers to achieve yields comparable to irrigated rice yield in Asian countries (Takeshima et al., 2013). However, the KIS project’s success has not been replicated elsewhere in Ghana, despite fairly similar conditions.

Launched in January 2021, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides a framework conducive to facilitating trade and accelerating the development of regional AVCs. The AfCFTA aims to establish a single continental market of more than 1.3 billion people by 2027. Effective liberalisation of intra-regional trade, combined with investment in trade infrastructure, would connect landlocked markets to coastal countries: this is the basis of food demand dynamics. Measures that are absolutely crucial to accelerate the AfCFTA’s entry into operation must therefore be taken in order to provide solutions to the many structural issues facing the countries in question.

To that end, there should be greater, stricter compliance with the agreements signed between states on transit facilitation. The ongoing presence of formal and informal tariff and non-tariff barriers to internal trade deters economic agents from winning regional markets. In November 2017, eight ECOWAS countries still required country-of-origin certificates for food shipments, even though they were abolished in 2003 (Mercier, 2018). This policy is a genuine barrier to trade because certificates of origin give rise to a cost that is borne by traders, and the process for obtaining them is lengthy and cumbersome (UNCTAD, 2018). These costly barriers adversely affect the competitiveness of local stakeholders on regional markets.

Enhancing the competitiveness of products also involves efforts to co-ordinate regulatory frameworks governing sanitary and phytosanitary rules and standards (SPS). The AU’s SPS policy framework and Annex 7 to the text of the AfCFTA Agreement focus on the need to harmonise SPS standards at continental level. This would make it possible to organise flows of agri-foods and to limit undue restraints on trade. For example, Cadot and Gourdon (2014) estimate that SPS measures increased food prices in sub-Saharan Africa by 13%. In West Africa, work to improve matters is under way, including the adoption in 2002 of the West African Quality Programme (WAQP) adopted by WAEMU that was extended to all ECOWAS countries in 2007. The WAQP, a regional regulatory framework for SPS measures, was intended to apply within ECOWAS. However, at the time of writing, there are still financial, technical and human resources constraints on the implementation, oversight and enforcement of the measures adopted.

Countries should continue to focus on harmonising the regulatory and legal framework for attracting investment. In this regard, countries see considerable merit in going beyond isolated national frameworks. Improvement in the business environment throughout the region is vital in order to attract major investment. Governance and institutional factors associated with the performance of the regulatory and fiscal framework should, inter alia, ensure protection for property rights, attract investors and limit the effects of corruption. In 2020, the region scored 51.8 points for ease of doing business compared to the world score of 63 points and a score of 78.4 for the OECD. Togo was the highest-placed West African country, ranking 97th in the world (out of 189 countries) and ninth in Africa. Only Togo and Nigeria (131st) were among the 10 economies that implemented the most reforms (World Bank, 2020c).

Governments can also work together to rebalance the power relationship in the governance of the value chains for the region’s primary export crops. By working together, states increase their room for manoeuvre in negotiations with international purchasers. This has, for example, happened in the cocoa value chain between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which control 60% of the global market and now set price floors below which cocoa will not be sold; this takes the form of a decent income differential, set at USD 400 per tonne for the 2020/21 season (CCC, 2020). Other forms of co-operation such as the introduction of quality marks or rules governing shared corporate responsibilities are also possible.

The introduction of cross-border special economic zones (SEZ) could stimulate regional complementarities. The aim of the tax incentives and greater availability of infrastructures that SEZ offer to businesses is to create hubs for employment and competitiveness within countries. The fact that they are cross-border in nature inherently promotes the development of complete value chains. It enables businesses to capitalise on regional complementarities, hence the cross-border Sikasso/Korhogo/Bobo-Dioulasso (SKBO) SEZ between Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. Established in 2018, it aims to exploit cross-border agricultural and mining potential and create jobs. There is likely to be merit in scaling up initiatives of this kind throughout the sub-region. Cross-border SEZs can play a significant role in attracting FDI because of the business facilities they provide. They could thus contribute to technical knowledge transfer, upgrading productive capacities, and therefore the opportunity to integrate product-processing activities that add value.

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