Current Trade News

Long before the Ukraine conflict began and sent wheat futures spiraling, scientists in Africa were experimenting with an alternative ingredient for baked goods: orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) puree. These efforts to diversify staple products like bread and chapati in Malawi as well as Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda by replacing as much as 60% of wheat flour are now buffering African food systems.

The important lesson here for other African countries is that potato and sweet potato are more than crisis crops that can fill a gap between harvests within three months to tide over the poorest. Rather, these staple crops can be a cornerstone of a nutritious, diverse and resilient food system, which can withstand the shockwaves of market crises by avoiding an over-reliance on single commodities.

The benefits of a more diverse, and therefore, resilient food system that makes the most of crops like sweet potato are manifold but require more investment and commitment to scale up production and unlock the full potential.

To begin with, hardy roots like potato and sweet potato can be stored for longer  - thanks to novel technologies - than other perishable goods and ingredients to bolster food security in the short and medium term.

For example, techniques using affordable, locally available preservatives, fine-tuned by food technologists, allow OFSP puree to be stored for three to six months without refrigeration. This provides a reliable and long-term food resource that can be used in Africa's daily bread.

Going forwards, food scientists at the International Potato Center (CIP) are working closely with private sector partners in Kenya to develop the technology for producing shelf-stable purée, using microwave processing and aseptic packaging, that allows it to be stored for more than a year at ambient temperatures, eliminating the need for cold storage. Aseptic puree can be used as an ingredient in food products made by small and medium enterprises and the informal market sector, and with Kenya's wheat import bills estimated at $250 million, sweet potato puree offers a cost-effective, homegrown alternative.

After food security, sweet potato and sweet potato puree also contributes to improved nutrition security. OFSP, which has been rolled out to more than a dozen African countries, is rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body.

Just 125 grams of sweet potato provide the daily vitamin A needs of a child aged five or younger, and at least half of its content is retained after baking. In addition, sweet potato puree also reduces added sugar used in most recipes by 90% and fat by 50%, making it a healthier alternative that helps tackle the rise of diet-related illness.

Finally, new ways to breed, grow and process sweet potato also create new opportunities both for farmers and those working in agribusiness. In collaboration with Euro-Ingredients Limited, OFSP puree has been successfully commercialized in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Burkina Faso and piloted in Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, The Gambia, South Africa, and Mozambique, creating new markets for farmers and new jobs for young people.

Organi Limited in Kenya, for example, buys from nearly 200 smallholder farmers of whom at least half are women while Tehilah Bakery and Value Addition Centre in Malawi buys fresh roots from more than 1,000 farmers in eight districts.

Staple crops like potato and sweet potato have long been seen as emergency crops for the poorest because they are quick to mature, can fill in the gap between cereal harvests and provide accessible and affordable calories.

Yet the current global food crisis shows how these crops can play a foundational role in creating more resilient food systems before shocks and stresses hit. With more collaboration with the private sector and support from policymakers, more countries across the continent could be reaping the benefits of potato and sweet potato innovations.


The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Sunday, May 15, launched the first-ever comprehensive tool that measures how easy, or hard, it is to do business between African countries.
The AfCFTA Country Business Index (ACBI) has three key objectives including assessing the perceived impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area on the private sector's ability to trade and invest across African borders once the Area is operational.
The idea that started in 2018 focuses explicitly on the constraints and challenges faced by private businesses, said Stephen Karingi, Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division of UNECA.
Its launch was done in a side event during the 54th session of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of Ministers in Dakar, Senegal.
"It will be used to identify key challenges that the private sector faces in its cross-border activities," he said.
As noted, the tool focuses on African integration by targeting businesses based in and trading across African countries.
The UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe, said the ACBI "is yet another measurement infrastructure" that will help assess the extent to which broader developments related to integration and trade are implemented; as well as understand the business sector's perceptions of trading under free trade agreements already in force in African countries.
Vera Songwe, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, speaks at the 54th session of the ECA Conference of Ministers in Dakar.
It is not a measure of what a particular country is doing but a measure of how easy it is for someone in one country to set up a business in another country, Songwe said.
The Index aims to look at how easy it is to do business between African countries, to trade among each other and how easy it is for a Cameroonian, for example, to set up business in Kenya and vice versa.
It will help identify bottlenecks and address issues so that the African private sector can conduct business as seamlessly in their country of origin as anywhere else on the continent.
Following the launch of the Index in 2018, experts began piloting and refining it as a tool to measure and compare the views of businesses across Africa on the implementation of the Area. After phase one, in Cameroon and Zambia, the methodology was refined.
Surveys were conducted in seven more countries: Angola, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa.
Karingi said they now target to cover 13 countries by July.
A report with results from the second phase of the roll-out was presented on Sunday. As found out, among others, Karingi noted, cross-border trade is more challenging for female-owned firms, something that policymakers need to pay attention to and help fix.
In the third phase, the new tool will be rolled out in DR Congo, Egypt, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia.
The Index differs from other integration indices, since it is informed entirely by private-sector perceptions, not by secondary data, making it truly representative of African business.
Prudence Sebahizi, the chief technical adviser on AfCFTA, requested the Economic Commission for Africa to enhance the new tool such that it can, in future, also able to measure or assess the status of rules and regulations that impact on trade "and what interventions can be made to improve trade performance."
"My point is: the ACBI has provided outcomes of national consultations based on private sector perceptions. However, no concrete reasons for such perceptions are provided nor actions proposed to improve the perceptions," Sebahizi later told The New Times.
The AfCFTA Secretariat is planning to undertake AfCFTA Trade Policy Reviews that will assess the status of national trade-related policies that affect the implementation of AfCFTA and propose concrete reforms to be undertaken to improve the situation.
The agreement establishing the AfCFTA officially became operational in 2021. The objectives of the Area are to create a single, continent-wide market and to enhance competitiveness at the enterprise level.
Kenya plans to allow maize imports from outside the East African Community to mitigate the current spike in flour prices now at a historic high of Sh150 for a two-kilo packet.
Agriculture Cabinet secretary Peter Munya said the imports, which are expected to give consumers a reprieve, will also force farmers hoarding their produce to release it to the market.
He said the decision on when the imports would start and volumes to be shipped in would be made in the next couple of days with the consignment expected to arrive in 45 days from the date that the orders would be made.
“We are going to run out of maize in the next few months and to control the rising cost of flour, we need to import the produce,” said Mr Munya.
This will be the first maize imports from outside of the EAC bloc since 2017.
He said the imports would be restricted to what is needed by those who would be licensed to avoid shipping in excessive stocks by unscrupulous traders.
The price of a 90-kilo bag of maize has shot to Sh4,500 from Sh2,800 in December and Sh3,700 in March on the back of a tightening supply in the market. The ministry said last month that farmers were holding onto 85 percent of the total stock of maize in the county, as they anticipated better prices in the future.
The food balance sheet report for March showed that growers were holding 8.5 million bags of maize stocks out of 10.1 million bags of 90Kgs, which has left millers facing a shortage of maize.
The report indicated that millers and traders have a paltry 1.5 million bags with the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) holding zero grains.
Millers have been complaining that the flow of stocks from local farmers has been dwindling, pointing out that the shortage will be acutely felt in the coming days.
Mr Munya said at the moment there is a shortage of supply to Kenya from the regional markets as most stocks from Uganda are heading to South Sudan where they are fetching a good price
Source: Business Daily
Inosselia Agro and Greenbelt Authority (GBA) greenhouse-based vegetable farm, which is near Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe, last week exported its first consignment of 300 kilograms (kgs) of fresh cherry tomatoes to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The farm--one of the biggest producers of high-quality tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelons, cucumbers, lettuce and cauliflower in Southern Africa --was established to secure exports and substitute the importation of horticultural produce from South Africa, which made Malawi lose a lot of forex.
This first successful commercial export has effectively sealed a sustainable market in DRC for the proprietors of the farm, who will continue exporting the cherry tomatoes to that market every week, with the amount of the produce also increasing every week.
It also puts the farm owners on a sure path to securing exports of the other fresh produce on the farm.
Inosselia Agro the Country Director, Michael Gorelik, speaking in an exclusive interview with Nyasa Times, expressed satisfaction that the farm has successfully achieved import substitution as the farm is now the main supplier of fresh vegetable produce to all major supermarkets and upmarket off-takers in Malawi, including Shoprite, Chipiku, Food Lovers, Sana and many others.
Gorelik said, in line with the initial business concept, the first phase was import substitution, which has now been successfully realized.
"The second phase is export, which we have just now commenced with cherry tomatoes to DRC. This is important, for it will bring more foreign currency into Malawi. Hand in hand with this, we have additional interests from other supermarket chains in other countries. They want export of our high quality and highly consistent fresh produce. So, as production goes up, imports will further reduce, hence more savings in foreign currency for Malawi," said Gorelik.
He added that Inosselia and GBA seek to sustain these exports by, among other things, ensuring high quality and consistency of the produce from the farm.
"If we promise to deliver the produce, we have to deliver, surely. We also have to be best in quality and competitive on pricing in view of the competition from other countries, who are also producing horticultural produce," he said.
Moving forward, Gorelik described Malawi as a "very good investment opportunity" for the Inosselia Group, which has several other ongoing investment interests in the country. According to him, these projects shall attract additional foreign currency, generate employment and expand on capacity building at all levels.
He further said the greenhouse farm near KIA, comprising 16 big greenhouses standing on 30 hectares of land, is now also initiating an extensive training and knowledge transfer (at the on-farm training facilities) to neighboring communities.
Gorelik said this is part of the strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, which are implemented in a joint CSR partnership with Standard Bank.
Inosselia Commercial, a global investment company, partnered with the government of Malawi through GBA in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, which has resulted in this joint venture agreement that is financing and developing one of the biggest greenhouse vegetable farms in Southern Africa, employing about 170 people-- practically all being Malawians residing around the airport and Lumbadzi area.
Source: Nyasatimes
Nairobi — Botswana, Uganda, and Ghana are the top countries with the most women business owners in Africa, the 2021 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) has revealed.
The three countries ranked at 38.5 percent, 38.4 percent, and 37.2 percent by the index benchmark indicator which is calculated as a percentage of total business owners.
MIWE focuses on putting the spotlight on the significant socio-economic contribution of women entrepreneurs around the world, including in Africa, and provides insights on the factors driving and inhibiting their advancement.
The report listed lack of funding, fewer opportunities for higher-level education, as well as structural barriers as some of the factors which hinder women's advancement.
Botswana, however, scores in the top 15 economies globally in terms of advancement outcomes for women, particularly as far as performance by income is concerned, out-performing high-income and developed economies such as Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia.
Botswana also scores highly in MIWE 2021's 'women's labor force participation rates, ranking 13th globally.
Encouragingly, although 'women's entrepreneurial activity rate' declined in most economies, a number of African countries saw gains in this area, indicating a strong positive entrepreneurial response to the pandemic. Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, South Africa, and Botswana all performed well in 'women's entrepreneurial activity rate' with Nigeria, Angola and Ghana ranking in the joint first place.
These rankings are despite the fact that in Nigeria and Angola 'government SME support' (ranked 62 and 53 respectively) and 'general access to finance' (ranked 61 and 63 respectively) are near the bottom of the rankings.
Ghana scores slightly better on these metrics at 44 for 'government SME support' and 37 for 'access to finance'. Ghana is ranked 6th globally (69.7 percent) for 'entrepreneurial attitudes and perceptions.
In both Nigeria and Angola, women's entrepreneurial activity rate exceeded men's even though women tend to be marginalized in terms of opportunities. Both economies display a strong, optimistic culture where there are 'perceived business opportunities. These positive and healthy entrepreneurial attitudes boost women's aspiration to become more financially independent.
According to the MIWE, Nigeria also ranked second globally for the number of 'women professional and technical workers (59.1 percent) while Angola ranked second globally in hiring intentions with 16.4percent of adults planning to employ six or more people in the next five years.
In addition, Angola ranked first globally in 'female opportunity-driven entrepreneurship' and sixth in 'self-perceived business capabilities'.
"Women in Botswana, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Angola stand out as excellent examples of women's determination to provide for themselves and their families, despite facing financial, regulatory and technical challenges. In these economies women are able to leverage on opportunities in their respective environments to be business owners, leaders and professional or technical workers," said Ebehijie Momoh, Country Manager and Area Business Head for West Africa at Mastercard.
In Malawi, a less wealthy economy, women continue to defy the odds and are making strong inroads in the business world despite socio-cultural barriers and infrastructural constraints such as a lack of government SME support, poor access to entrepreneurial finances, and severe lack of opportunities for education. The gender gaps in entrepreneurial activity rate in Malawi are amongst the narrowest on a global scale.
Source: Capital FM
A business delegation from Mozambique has expressed interest to invest in various areas of trade in Malawi.
The delegation is in the country for three days to explore trade opportunities from 28-30 March 2022.
Speaking during a Malawi-Mozambique Business to Business Forum in Lilongwe on Monday, President of Confederation for Economic Association (CTA) in Tete, Dr Herminio Nhantumbo, said they are mainly interested in areas of health services, agribusiness, tourism, transport, tourism and fishing sector.
"There are a lot of opportunities in our countries where we can invest. We can do a lot of things together to develop our nations," he said.
Nhantumbo added that the forum also gives them a chance to network and share experiences of their businesses.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Francis Zhiwao, said the forum between the two countries arguers well with the Malawi National Export Strategy 11 aiming at unlocking the country's full export potential.
"The portfolio of businesses that have come from Mozambique perfectly aligns with Malawi's export strategic focus," he said.
Zhiwao said the strategy prioritizes Agriculture commercialization, industrialization and urbanization.
Source: Nyasatimes