Let us start a debate on the need to protect West African agriculture

A few days ago I received a message from Mr Bruno Ouédraogo of the Consumers’ League of Burkina (LCB), expressing satisfaction over a number of achievements in the struggle of the African Civil society. He notes in particular::

Ø An effective alternating presidency of the ECOWAS: The President of Ghana is now taking over from Ivory Coast, bringing genuine hopes for a change in the sub-regional agricultural and economic policy (Reference event: The conference of ECOWAS Heads of State – Yamoussokro – Ivory Coast).

Ø The EPAs were not ratified with the European Union at the 44th ECOWAS summit in Abidjan. And yet the cocoa markets of Ghana and Ivory Coast are not under threat. The shortage of cocoa increasingly compel the Europeans to buy on conditions set by the producers (Ref. The conference of ECOWAS Heads of State – Yamoussokro –Ivory Coast)

Ø The civil society of Niger is bringing heavy pressure in the negotiations on uranium mining with the AREVA company, which presumed it was moving on conquered territory, refusing Nigers’ conditions: the payment of taxes in a win-win partnership with Niger, as stated in the Niger 2006 Mining Act (Ref. The demonstration at the Nigerien Parliament in Niamey)

Ø France (the only European country admitted at the ECOWAS Finance Ministers’ meeting in Abuja, Nigeria) has just accepted getting joining the crusade for development in Africa through investment, recognising that current agreements ECOWAS – France are unbalanced and that economic and financial agreements should henceforth be concluded respecting the priorities and interests of ECOWAS member states

Ø Germany, leader among EU countries, is reconsidering its strategy for economic cooperation and investment in Africa. During the forthcoming AU/EU summit in Brussels, it should be making new proposals for improved economic cooperation, including increasing investments in Africa.

However, Bruno Ouédraogo is demanding other contributions as well. I take the opportunity to call for a wide debate on the new CET. The extra statutory summit of ECOWAS Heads of State on the 25th of October last year in Dakar ended with the adoption of the new CET.

Since then not a week goes by without the West African press publishing articles welcoming the adoption of the new CET. for example the site of AfriqueJet we read: « ”The regional block of the 15 member states of the ECOWAS has taken a huge leap in economic integration by adopting the new CET.. » Why not? ? ” But is it a leap forwards or a leap backwards? Reading this I was reminded of a speech,, by an Algerian minister who, a few years after the independence rejoiced in the progress of his country: ”On the day of our independence we were at the brink of an abyss. Since then we have taken a great step forward!” I have not found a single analysis of the contents of the new CET. The negotiations were however long, a sign that all do not have the same interests.

Indeed the new CET is not at all a good thing for West African farmers. It does not protect a single farm product (the tax for milk is still 5% and for rice 10 %). None of the proposals submitted by ROPPA (Alliance of West African farmer organisations and producers) has been taken into account.

I do not understand why ROPPA , as far as I know, has not reacted to the proposal by Jacques Berthelot :

« The only way forward for the ECOWAS is to show political courage in order to prevail on its ”donors” – who are at the same time predators » - – and to reform its agricultural trade policy by adopting Variable Taxes. This is the only way to ensure that farmers, who account for 2/3 of the active work force, get stable prices and a profit, which would be a strong boost for production and farmers’ income. This is a necessary basis for its global economic development in the light of its population growth, rising from 304 million in 2010 to 744 million in 2050”. »

To understand the expression Variable Taxes, see abc: 472) Regulating farm and food prices

See also abc: 473) WTO rules do not let ECOWAS protect its agriculture

Koudougou, March 7th, 2014
Maurice Oudet
Director, SEDELAN

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