Conall O’Caoimh of Value Added In Africa writes about an animation they made to promote a fair deal for African producers.
African producers increasingly add value to their resources – making great products – things you would like – snacks, roasted coffee, garments, etc. And in the processing they create jobs and buy inputs from local farmers and service providers. For example, with delicious Madécasse Chocolate four times more money stays in Madagascar compared to selling just raw beans for export.
But for African producers to move up into processing is frightfully difficult. When they overcome all the challenges of development and have a good product to offer they still face a raft of trade barriers – legal trade rules and ‘business practices’. Because African countries were forced to open up to imports, local small companies must compete with cheap imports. And yet they face many barriers preventing them gaining access to international markets.
Trade justice requires ensuring the survival of fledgling industries in their home markets and finding channels to global markets for these finished products.
In the Comhlámh Trade Justice Group we sought to make the rules fairer. We campaigned at the WTO. And we opposed the EU led Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). I was directly involved for almost a decade up to 2007, and the campaign continues.
Sadly, we largely lost the battle against EPAs and they started to come into effect in 2008 (though negotiations continue and there is still space to influence them).
EPAs give African countries something most of them technically already had (tax-free access to European markets). And in return they will, in time, give European companies tax-free access to African markets.
EPAs are, on balance, a loss for Africa, but it’s important not to miss the opportunity that they also offer. Technically almost any locally made product can come from the EPA countries into the EU at 0% tariff. Officially that includes most things from teabags to space rockets! But in fact there are very few producers overcoming the administrative and institutional barriers for anything other than raw materials.
What we are doing at Value Added in Africa is ensuring that the market access African countries technically enjoy under EPAs becomes a reality. Most African SMEs could never afford the huge effort it takes to get a supermarket to stock their product – and put it on a shelf where customers will notice it.
Thankfully Madécasse is about to go into 260 Waitrose stores in the UK – and is already in a growing number of shops in Ireland. With VAA’s help Traidcraft are about to launch a range of ‘producer brands’ in the UK that will also come to Ireland. Sauces from Meru Herbs coop in Kenya, and from Eswatini in Swaziland are already in Fresh supermarkets and other stores in Ireland.
Bigger than facilitating individual products we seek to build a ‘channel’ into international markets for African made goods – to remove the institutional barriers and change the business practices.
Our work follows directly from involvement with the Comhlamh Trade Justice Group, and without the generous support of TJG members as donors and volunteers we could never have got going.
View this the short animation about our work above. The animation is made in Kenya by Studio Ang of Nairobi.
The animation is about more than a smart economy product being produced in Africa; it is about African voice and authorship. And this change is just as much a part of VAA’s agenda. Full global justice for Africa requires both. This animation is a value added product and it is knowledge produced about Africa, in Africa, by Africa.