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EDITO
Friday, 20 October 2017

Namibian President Hage Geingob over the weekend implored African governments and the private sector to aggressively champion industrialisation in their economies and curb over-reliance on raw commodity exports. Geingob, who was on a three-day state visit to Zimbabwe, spoke at the official opening of the 58th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, where he noted that the challenges facing the African continent and rising youth unemployment could only be addressed by harnessing regional linkages and pursuing a robust regional industrialisation agenda anchored on value addition and beneficiation. He bemoaned low intra-regional trade and reliance on imports from developed economies, which he blamed for the continued use of economic models that serve colonial interests.

The European Union (EU) is concerned about South Africa’s ability to deal with exposure to prohibited medicines and growth hormones with regard to its poultry and other commodities. Briefing the portfolio committee on trade and industry at Parliament on Tuesday, Dessislava Choumelova, EU counsellor for trade and economics, said there are serious concerns about South Africa’s ability to conduct strict sanitary controls. According to Fin24, the understaffing at state veterinarians and “problems” at South Africa’s laboratories were cited in residue and public health audits conducted in February this year as reasons for health and safety concerns. “We (the EU) need to be convinced and sure of South Africa’s ability to deal with exposure to prohibited medicine and growth hormones,” Ms Choumelova said, “not only for poultry but for all commodities.”

For too long, neoliberal ideas have dominated issues in development economics, and it is easy to see why. When richer countries put their success down to increased trade openness and capital mobility, it is understandable that developing countries would want a taste too. The most famous argument for this line of thinking is that as countries move goods more easily between each other, it encourages the flow of ideas and innovation. The question of how regional trade can promote development in Nigeria is an important one. Over time, regional trade blocs have cropped up across Africa – a response to the argument that Africa's underdevelopment is due to low intraregional trade.

Peter Sotamaruti’s 2-acre farm near Bungoma, a village in western Kenya, is minuscule by the standards of the developed world. But it’s double the acreage he tended five years ago. Sales of surplus corn have allowed the 49-year-old farmer and his family to trade up from a mud hut to a three-room brick house with solar-powered lights. His modest profits also cover school fees for his four high school-age children and pay for health insurance, a luxury among farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. “We now treat our farm as a business,” says Sotamaruti, who plans to expand to 4 acres in the next year.

Vegetable seed specialist Hazera has announced that it has opted to support agricultural development in Africa, providing high quality seeds and expertise to support people improving their living conditions. Hazera utlined several examples of where it has made a difference on the continetn. In Ethiopia, a development project that began with the adoption of one village is expanding now to 13 additional villages, while another project is supported in Holeta, where the Roseland foundation is developing the community through education and agriculture. More broadly, Hazera is training farmers all over Africa and is introducing vegetable varieties that can bring African farms to healthy profit.