Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Using Intra-African Trade Scorecards to Identify Opportunities for Increasing Agricultural Trade

Across the continent, African governments are taking steps to make agricultural trade freer. In June 2014, heads of state of African Union member countries issued a bold commitment to a series of measurable goals related to agriculture-led growth and food security on the continent.

Tripling intra-African agricultural trade by 2025 was among the list of commitments. In 2018, the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) issued a report on performance against this indicator. While overall trade increases were observed continent-wide, performance among countries varied considerably.

Noting these trends, we at the Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Food Security project have developed a set of trade improvement scorecards for countries in sub-Saharan Africa that capture relative performance on a range of elements that underpin an effective trading system. The Intra-African Agriculture Trade Improvement Scorecards include:

To make these tools useful as performance snapshots, we restricted our data sources based upon the following criteria:

  1. Relevance — Data sources were selected to hew as closely as possible to key trade determinants identified by ReSAKSS in the Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor.
  2. Transparency — Only publicly available data sets with posted scoring methodologies were selected.
  3. Recent Data — Only data updated biennially factored into the scorecards.

Applying these data, our team organized comparative country performance per a three-part ranking system: green for the top-third performers, yellow for the middle-third performers, and red for the lower-third performers in each indicator.

Looking at the data across the scorecards, common opportunities emerged. For example, many countries do not recognize cross-border document authentication, creating additional steps and costs for traders who must secure double authentication of documents. Additionally, inconsistent standards and metrology regimes preclude reliable and traceable measurements for goods in trade. And in many countries, outmoded legal and regulatory regimes can be upgraded to enable increased use of digital commerce platforms and mobile payment services.

Freer flowing agricultural trade is critical for improved food security. More trade can build resilience in food systems across the continent, as food passes over political boundaries faster and in a less costly manner from areas of plenty to zones of hunger. Producers can gain increased access to lucrative markets across borders, improving conditions for increased rural and agricultural incomes. Consumers stand to gain more selection, opening up opportunities for greater dietary diversity.

But trade system performance gaps pervade in sub-Saharan Africa and limit the potential for increased agricultural trade on the continent. After all, a marketing channel — much like a chain — is only as strong as its weakest link. Through these scorecards, we seek to help identify opportunities for governments across sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen their trading systems to make their freer trade commitments work harder for improved food security outcomes.