Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Agriculture and the sixth meeting of the EU’s and AU’s heads of states and governments

The much-awaited sixth meeting of the EU’s and AU’s heads of states and governments will take place in Brussels on 17-18 February, two years after the European Commission published its blueprint for a ‘strategic partnership’ with Africa.

The EU is keen to use the ‘partnership’ to encourage African states to adopt the environmental policies in its Green Deal. However, the pandemic has prompted a recalibration of priorities among African countries.

In particular, the major disruption to production and supply chains has pushed many states to focus more on increasing domestic production and reducing their reliance on imported food.

The AU sees the ‘partnership’ process as an opportunity to give its governments and regional blocs more leeway to build up industrial capacity and markets. According to the World Bank, 23% of sub–Saharan Africa’s GDP comes from agriculture.

Contacted by EURACTIV, the European Commission said it is too early at this stage to know about a list of agriculture topics to be discussed at the summit.

In the context of the revamped partnership with Africa, the EU is expected to support concrete actions for the development of intellectual property when it comes to African foodstuffs, for instance.

An own African food policy

The impact of the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), may spill over into Africa and, more specifically, on small-scale African farmers.

In terms of concrete targets, the Commission proposed an ambitious 50% cut for the use and risk of pesticides, as well as a 50% reduction of highly hazardous pesticides, a 20% cut in fertiliser use and a 50% reduction of antibiotic use in farming and aquaculture, all by 2030 and compared to the EU’s current level.

African farmers fear that requirements to meet those targets, if they want to sell their products to Europe, could fast become a major hurdle to trade, as ramifications of the decisions taken at the EU level do not stop at its borders.

The biggest concern for African farmers is that the EU regulatory framework could become unfair because of the demands being imposed and the requirement to comply with no specific timelines to catch up with European farmers.

Last week, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a network of 36 civil society actors, representing smallholder farmers and pastoralists, urged the African Union to endorse the initiative to develop an Africa Food Policy aimed at reducing reliance on overpriced imports.

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