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AU/ Harmonized SPS Policies & Capacities: 2023 is the Year of Accelerated Implementation of the FTAA

In Kigali, experts from the private sector and governments of several African and Western countries met (March 30-31, 2023) to discuss the accelerated implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, in the context of promoting sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) policies and capacities.

As agriculture is very important for the sustainable performance of African economies, it is clear that the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) system plays a key role in this regard. SPS measures are one of the many trade issues covered by the trade policy review reports of World Trade Organization (WTO) members. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 75% of intra-African trade is in agricultural products. There is therefore an urgent need to exploit markets and trade opportunities on the old continent and abroad. One reason for this is that the FTAA emphasizes the continued expansion of growth and transformation of African agriculture and reaffirms the need to further develop trade in agricultural products in Africa.

Thus, the four objectives of the AU SPS strategic framework address the diverse and intersecting needs and priorities of SPS systems in Africa. These include building harmonized and science-based SPS systems, supporting member states' efforts, including taking into account both international standards and regional conditions. Strengthening collaboration and trade facilitation is also on the agenda. The goal is to increase efficiency and reduce trade costs by working towards a coherent continental SPS system. Technical capacity building to optimize the technical capabilities of RECs, member states and stakeholders through cooperation and resource sharing is also on the agenda. Increased political support and investment from the public and private sectors would enable the expansion of intra-African trade in plants, animals and food. To achieve its objectives, the document "IMPLEMENTING THE AU SPS POLICY FRAMEWORK" proposes specific strategies and actions. It also suggests potential roles and priorities for responsible institutions and other stakeholders. Possible funding, monitoring, evaluation and reporting mechanisms are briefly mentioned.

According to Josepha Sacko, Commissioner of the African Union Commission's Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, improved implementation and harmonization of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) systems is essential to ensure that all agricultural trade protects human, animal, and plant health.

As a reminder, the policy framework was formally recognized by the 2014 AU Malabo Declaration on Accelerating Growth and Transformation in Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods. This framework was formulated when the AU entered the practical phase of operationalizing the AfCFTA to achieve comprehensive continental integration. It is also worth noting that the policy framework comes at a time when the AU's Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA) is presenting its second biennial review report. The policy framework will in turn help generate information for successive biennial review reports.


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