Deputy President William Ruto has asked African countries to protect their farmers by buying local products as part of efforts to boost production.
He said there was need to come up with measures aimed at protecting local industries and farmers from cheap imports, urging African nations to trade more with each other.
The Deputy President said Kenya was committed to working closely with other states to speed up regional and continental integration as part of efforts to boost trade.
He said Kenya was among those countries, which have agreed that continental and regional integration is the path to transforming African countries from being developing to developed economies.
Speaking during the 15th Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform meeting held at a Nairobi hotel on Wednesday, the Deputy President said Kenya is determined to pursue free trade and regional integration.
Dr Ruto said Kenya was not only the first country to sign the free trade area agreement but also took the lead in ratifying it so as to use its boundaries as bridges to share its prosperity.
“I want to persuade you, political and knowledge leaders that this is our moment to take steps that change the fortunes of our continent,” said the Deputy President.
The theme of the meeting was ‘Enhancing Trade and Market for Accelerated Agriculture Transformation’.
“From our East African Community, which has made tremendous progress towards maximum integration, to Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which is the largest common market at its level of integration, the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is a logical next step in our national vision of greater integration,” said Dr Ruto.
He said African countries must embrace economic and political integration in order to spur prosperity and ensure strategic security for their citizens.
The Deputy President said African countries have applied themselves strongly to creating policies and programmes that ease these critical challenges, but the success rate has persistently failed to reflect the efforts invested.
He said the move can be discouraging, and may lead to pessimism and widespread skepticism.
“A continent-wide approach offers many benefits, including scale, breadth, diversity and flexibility. This is why CAADP has become increasingly critical to African problem-solving and African development,” said the Deputy President.
He said agriculture remains key in unlocking opportunities for sustainable development in the continent.
“When we compare agriculture’s contribution to our GDPs with our collective share of world trade, we draw the unhappy observation that agriculture forms a big portion of a very tiny pie indeed,’ said Dr Ruto.
He called on the need to optimize agriculture through implementation of ideas that deliberately build and exploit the many complementarities located in the sector and its value chains.
He said access to markets, research and technology dissemination and increased food production are vital components of complementary commitments that aim to boost African countries’ individual domestic, as well as collective continent-wide production.
“This partnership platform is Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition, economic growth and prosperity for all,” said Dr Ruto.
Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said Kenya was committed to empowering its farmers by creating and exploring markets for their produce.
Mr Kiunjuri said farmers can increase their production if there are ready markets for their produce.
Commissioner, Rural Economy and Agriculture, Africa Union Josepha Sacko praised Kenya’s commitment to the regional and continental integration in the ongoing efforts to promote trade among the African states.
“I must laud Kenya’s commitment and fast-tracking of ACFTA bearing in mind that the country was the first to ratify it,” said Ms Sacko.
She asked African countries to work together in coming together with a roadmap and policy for agriculture to take its rightful place in the market.
‘We should enhance trade by coming up with incentives aimed at promoting agricultural sector instead of blaming others on the challenges including food shortage facing the continent,” she said.
Ms Sacko said boosting of intra-Africa trade in agriculture should be emphasized as the only way to achieve the needs of the continent.
CAADP Non State Actors chairman Dr Chris Muyunda said Africa continent should work towards doubling its trade efforts besides eliminating barriers that have become stumbling block to moving from developing to developed.
“As African countries, we need to share information on the types of goods and services required in our respective nations,’ said Mr Muyunda.
Mr Christopher Shepherd-Pratt, director of Food and agriculture Policy, Bureau for Food Security, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said his organization would continue working with the stakeholders in the implementation of Malabo agreements.
Deputy Secretary General East African Community Christopher Bazivamo called on the need to reduce barriers to free trade in the continent.
‘We are facing challenges in non tariff barriers and solutions need to be found to attain free movement of goods and services within the African Continent,’ said Mr Bazivamo.