25 May 2023

Celebrating Africa Day with sustainable commodity production and trade


Celebrating Africa Day with sustainable commodity production and trade

Agriculture is a key driver of the economy in Africa, employing about 60 percent of people, on average, across the continent, and contributing to about 23% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the theme of Africa Day looks at 'Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area', we believe that increased trade is a big opportunity to commit to responsible production and trade of agricultural commodities, to drive the triple benefit of economic development, environmental protection and social benefits.

In effect, if trade equals responsible trade, AfCFTA could help mitigate the carbon load of importing goods from international markets, whilst protecting local ecosystems, including forests. It can help ensure that human rights are protected, including rights for IPLC, smallholder inclusion, and land and labour rights, and ensure food security across the continent, reducing reliance on import availability variations and foreign exchange fluxes.  

The Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative (ASCI), facilitated by Proforest, covers ten countries in West and Central Africa within the AfCFTA, providing the enabling environment for responsible production and trade. 

ASCI is a single set of principles for the responsible production of agricultural commodities in Africa, protecting forests, good governance, and transparency, while ensuring social benefits for farmers, communities, marginalised people and safeguarding their human rights.  

All ten signatory countries have committed to these principles and made progress on implementation including policy reform, public-private partnerships and capacity building, while will be critical in the success of AfCFTA, listed below.

In demonstrating commitments to responsible production (and trade) countries and businesses within the AfCFTA can also improve their reputation and competitiveness with global markets, boosting international trade as well as foreign investment, a critical element for accelerating economic development and prosperity. 

AfCFTA comes in later than many other similar initiatives but stands to be the largest. It also comes at a critical time for trade between producer and consumer countries, with regulation including the EU Deforestation-free Regulation driving due diligence efforts and rules of origin. While still new, some National Implementation Committees (NIC) have been active since the AfCFTA came into force, such as Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, collaborating with the private sector on practical implementation. These countries have committed to principles of sustainable production through ASCI, creating a good foundation to push for trade in responsibly produced commodities through the continent. 

For more information visit the Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative.

  • Cameroon has embedded the Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) principles into its National Strategy for the Sustainable Development of the Palm Oil Value Chain (2021 – 2030) elaborated by government, private sector companies, producer associations / cooperatives, and civil society.  Key activities include promoting the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and commitment to the national interpretation of Roundtable on Sustainable Oil Palm (RSPO) standard. 

  • Central Africa Republic is focused on forging strategic alliances to ensure it can move beyond the creation of principles and plans to long-term implementation and protection of resources. 

  • Côte d’Ivoire is tackling key issues, such as forest and wildlife conservation, gender equality, smallholder training and certification through partners at the landscape level.  Partners can understand the importance of the identification of High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Cabon Stock (HCS) and FPIC after the training organised by Proforest. 

  • Democratic Republic of Congo is committed to ensure support for smallholder production without the clearing of forests to enable that expansion. 

  • Gabon is complying with international standards such as RSPO, HCV and HCS. Gabon has also made them relevant with the RSPO National Interpretation. 

  • In Ghana, a new legal entity, the Tree Crop Development Authority, has been established to regulate six commodity supply chains – oil palm, coconut, mango, shea, rubber and cashew.  

  • Liberia’s government has launched a National Oil Palm Strategy, with land rights and local communities at the heart of production, development and forest protection. The Land Rights Act (2018) gives legal and regulatory backing – ensuring Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is required for all developers and investors on customary land.  

  • In Nigeria, through the Produce, Protect, Rehabilitate: Companies in Edo State must integrate smallholder development into operations, protect forest areas within concessions and provide resources to restore degraded forest equivalent to 25% of their land holding. 

  • Republic of Congo is training government and partners in Free, Prior and Informed Consent. RoC has developed and validated FPIC national guidance, a major achievement and tool for industry. 

  • Sierra Leone through the ASCI platform has been involved in the setup of five alternative livelihood programmes to reduce dependence on the forest for survival, including beekeeping and aquaculture.