Africa needs to focus on agriculture: UN
Geneva, September 17, 2008
African countries need to concentrate on agriculture, said the United Nations in a report.
The state must play a bigger role to help the private sector seize opportunities in the key agriculture sector, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.
The UN body also found that 'Export performance in African countries following trade liberalisation has been disappointing.'
In agricultural trade, liberalisation was not accompanied by policies to enhance productivity, output and exports, it said.
Africa remains dependent on traditional bulk agricultural commodities for the bulk of its export earnings even though it has been losing market share here to other developing countries.
It is starting to export more dynamic products such as fresh vegetables, but the private sector is not able to develop these markets on its own, UNCTAD said.
Hence the state has a role to improve productivity and efficiency by increasing investment in research and infrastructure such as roads and irrigation.
Since the mid-1980s, most African countries have liberalised trade through measures such as devaluing overvalued currencies, easing foreign currency controls, removing import and export licences, cutting tariffs, eliminating export duties, and dismantling marketing boards.
But African countries saw smaller increases in imports and exports than other developing nations that undertook similar measures, UNCTAD said.-Reuters