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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

EU Trade Agreements pose ‘tricky balance’ for African countries

In 2011, as Africa was hit by its worst drought in half a century, packets of Kenyan green beans and avocados and buckets of decorative flowers from Ethiopia were still available in European markets. This situation was the result of special EU trade treatment designed to help Sub-Saharan African countries grow out of poverty, Euractiv journalists note.
In the same time, millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia were left hungry and an outpouring of emergency aid from the European Union and other major donors was triggered.
The 2011 scenario is repeated on nearly an annual basis in a region prone to climate calamities and famine and reflects an oddity in the fight against poverty and hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region and main recipient of EU development aid. “It’s easier to know the demands of the market in Europe than we do in our own neighbourhood,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas,head of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).
The EU imports 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural exports – including nuts, fresh-cut flowers, tea, coffee, citrus fruits and vegetables – Commission figures show. Trade has nearly doubled in the decade since Europe began forging closer economic ties with ACP states under EU commitments to boost trade and aid, with exports to the EU exceeding those between African nations.
Poor transportation connections, high tariffs, security barriers and primitive information-sharing on market needs contribute to the problem, ACP’s Chambas told EurActiv,making it easier for much of Sub-Saharan Africa to export its agriculture and raw materials to non-Africans, and ship goods to Europe by air or sea.
Leaders of the 53-nation African Union have approved an “action plan” to change this by promoting regional commerce and providing a more inviting manufacturing climate. The AU plan calls for the free movement of people and commerce, and multinational cooperation to address the sub-continent’s pitiful infrastructure.

Source: Euractiv