By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos – Any country that closes its doors to social, economic, and other forms of interaction with others thrives on self-deceit; its citizens and economy would be limited because no country can exist and excel in isolation.
African countries including Morocco have had long-standing histories of different forms of trade relations within and outside the shores of the continent but some of these relations were fraught with lack of transparency, red-tapism, restrictions, and other impediments while some were outright exploitation of the people.
To offer value in trade and position Africa to adequately respond to the challenges confronting the continent, the African Union brought on board the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA to strengthen the intra-Africa trade relations, ensure food security and meet the food demand of citizens.
The AfCFTA agreement was signed in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda with the focus on substantially reducing both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade within the continent; ratified in 2019 and
officially launched in 2021, to create a single market in Africa. The four sectors identified as high-potential areas to explore are automotive; agriculture and agro-processing; pharmaceuticals; and transport and logistics.
The Secretary-General of AfCFTA, H.E. Wamkele Mene while addressing the Council of Ministers responsible for trade in 2020 reiterated that the AfCFTA is not just a trade agreement but a development instrument and urged for its speedy implementation.
He said, “It is projected that when we successfully implement the agreement, we will lift about 100 million Africans out of poverty and we would boost intra-Africa Trade by $35- 40 billion annually; increase value chain development in all sectors; enhance the competitiveness of industry economies of scale; reduce the trade deficit by 50.6%; increase level of investment in various sectors, create decent jobs and improve SME development and create employment.”
Mene added, “The AfCFTA sends a strong signal to the international investor community that Africa is open for business, based on a single rule book for trade and investment.”
At the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union in February 2023, the benefits embedded in the AfCFTA were extensively discussed to show how boosting trade through the initiative could propel a people-centred development in the continent in line with the AU Agenda 2063.
It was revealed that “The successful implementation of the AfCFTA will lead to the creation of more decent jobs, improve welfare and better quality of life for all citizenry, and sustainable development.”
Beyond the policy transformation and reforms, the AfCFTA also seeks to ensure the inclusivity of women and youth, including those in rural areas as well as bring about the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and overall industrialization of the continent.
Believing in the potential of the flagship programme to consolidate governance and improve its economy and citizens, Morocco as the 43rd country, ratified the AfCFTA initiative in 2022 to explore the future of economic integration on the continent and empower its citizens.
The AfCFTA initiative tilts to a private sector-driven economy supported by the government. In the agricultural sector driven by agro-processing, it provides opportunities to create jobs, eradicate poverty, ensure food security, and grow the economy hence Morocco’s efforts at taking advantage of it.
Morocco’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Nadia Alaoui at a 2022 ministerial retreat of the Committee of Fifteen Finance Ministers of the African Union (as reflected on the AU website;) reiterated the country has strengthened its bilateral cooperation relations with other African countries in the last two decades, working to develop new win-win partnerships.
She noted, “… The Royal commitment in favour of the continent was accompanied by the establishment of a legal framework more conducive to the development of trade flows and investment, through the conclusion of several promotions and protection of investments, the easing of regulations on the exchange controls to strengthen Moroccan investments in Africa and
revitalization of bilateral joint commissions aimed at strengthening the sectoral cooperation, with particular emphasis on capacity building and transfer of expertise and know-how…”
Although data on the CAADP 3rd biennial review report on boosting intra-Africa trade in agriculture commodities and services by the year 2025 is not very encouraging there is hope for an improvement as the report noted, “… Many members- States are making significant progress in improving the overall trade environment by building infrastructure, reducing the cost of trade, facilitating, among others, travel through visa-free/visa on arrival arrangements, there is need to put more effort to ensure that more intra-Africa trade takes place…
“There is a need to intensify efforts to enhance and facilitate more trade in agricultural commodities and services among the Member States, especially in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).”
But Wail, a Moroccan entrepreneur, stated that his country is committed to intra-Africa engagement saying, “2022 was a big year for Morocco, the AfCFTA and the Pan-African Parliament Protocol which are to promote economic and social integration through trade and lawmaking were ratified. For businesses, the AfCFTA is a promising tool to enhance value-chain.”
On food security, he explained, “Morocco is also using the generation green 2020-2030 strategy to mechanize the agriculture sector, increase agricultural production, support exports, and increase investments. The strategy pays attention to the development of people in the agricultural sector and prioritizes inclusive modernization of agriculture to appeal to women and younger people and attract private investment into the agri-food sector through the lifting of regulatory and financing barriers.”
A government employee Rahim stated, “Drought and climate change have affected agriculture, measures are in place to increase the local production and supply of agricultural produce so we can export more. There is an improvement in the security of land tenure so that investors can employ more people, especially in the rural areas but we also have to deal with the long chain of middlemen whose activities put more burden on the ability of an average household to obtain food.
“AfCFTA talks about growth so the Agency of Agricultural Development encourages young people with innovative ideas to engage in entrepreneurship. Morocco has always engaged in trade relations with others in Africa and outside Africa, and AfCFTA holds great benefits for us.
“Morocco has been signing and implementing MoUs, conventions, and agreements to create impacts in many fields like agricultural and forestry research, animal and plant production, engineering, and others. Our fertilizer company has been a great platform to deepen relationships among peers in Africa and fertilizer is a contributor to food security.”
The review report quoted earlier also confirmed Morocco’s commitment to food security saying the country is among those which are on track to implement the Malabo Declaration on accelerated agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods.
Morocco is making progress in the area of the use of fertilizer to improve soil fertility, as “it is using 50kg of fertilizer per hectare. It has access to quality advisory services in agricultural production to encourage private sector participation in agricultural information sharing to food system actors; it has increased agricultural research spending, an indication of funding commitment from increased awareness and the need to sustainably fund agricultural research for development.
The country has “allocate within national budgets, budget lines that amount to 100% of the total requirement from 2015 to 2025, to support social
protection initiatives, and to address any eventual disasters and emergencies with food and nutrition security implications. It is on track to halving poverty through agriculture…”
Women in Morocco are also being encouraged and empowered in agriculture as the report added that the country has increased the “proportion of rural women that are empowered in agriculture.”
Meanwhile, information obtained from the website of Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forest re-echoed the importance Morocco places on trade cooperation as it said, “Bilateral and technical cooperation is an essential tool for the modernization and upgrading of the agricultural sector… It is centred on meeting needs related to the implementation and efficiency of agricultural policy instruments in terms of expertise, training, and technology transfer.”
In recent times, Morocco has improved partnerships with other countries in Africa, a visit to Nigeria saw both countries discussing the possibilities in agriculture which employs a large chunk of the countries’ working population because as it was observed, “Africans, should trust one other, try to create a proper mechanism to deepen intra Africa trade and remove structural barriers to trade and investments.”
This article was developed with support from the African Union through the African Union Agenda 2063 Pitch Zone Awards, a partnership with the African Women in Media.
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