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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Brexit may provide boost for African agriculture

A UK departure from the European Union could help African countries to speed up agricultural innovation that is currently held back by stringent health and safety regulations. Next to raw minerals, agriculture is the most promising driver of economic growth on the continent of 54 countries. With commodity prices flat many countries are struggling with low growth, leaving them scrambling for alternative revenue sources. However, trade deals – particularly with powerful trading blocs such as the EU – have not generally gone well for individual African states trying to secure access to one of the world’s wealthiest markets. At the same time, the EU’s raft of health and safety regulations have stifled the deployment of technology such as genetically modified crops (GM), slowing agricultural advancement. “The EU needs to rethink its attitudes towards African agricultural innovation irrespective of the outcome of UK vote," says Professor Calestous Juma from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School in the United States. A Kenyan national, Prof Juma is one of a growing number of African academics who feel restrictive trade policies that rely on unscientific safety barriers are hindering food security on the continent. Currently GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are widely used in the US and many other countries, including South Africa. However the EU places extensive restrictions and controls on their consumption, making it difficult for African exporters to gain access to the market, Prof Juma says.

Source: thenational.ae