For the first time ever, a trade monitoring system was unveiled at the 2018 AGRF during a session on unlocking new opportunities for regional food markets and food trade in Africa. The African Agricultural Trade Status Monitor (AATSM) report whose purpose is to track the progress made in achieving the trade targets set in the Malabo declaration was conceptualised through the collaborative efforts between International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), ReSAKSS and the African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium (AGRODEP). Its creation was further hastened by the need to alleviate anti-trade and anti-globalisation, which, if not addressed will make millions of people undernourished. Key findings from the report, which took two years to complete indicate that there have been strong improvements in Africa’s trade performance since the 1990s both in the global and regional markets. “We hope the information from the report will help policy makers take the measures required to speed up the set targets on trade in the Malabo Declaration,’’ said Mr Michael Hailu, Director, CTA. The Malabo Declaration committed to harness markets and trade opportunities, locally, regionally and internationally by tripling intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and services by the year 2025. However, according to the AATSM report, the likelihood of countries meeting these targets are slim. Further, African agricultural exports have risen threefold and the import bill has risen five times faster. Still, the progress has been considerably below potential, with the market share in global markets still lower than the 1960s level and the intra-regional trade is still the lowest in the world even though it has doubled. “We believe the research capacity that the AATSM networks has built will provide support for regional integration and trade discussions,” said Mr Hailu. The report, which is set to be produced on an annual basis, is riding on the approval of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which has allowed the movement of goods and people across African borders through elimination of barriers. Notably, the free movement of people and goods across county borders can be seen in Rwanda. The country has made investments in infrastructures such as roads to facilitate the movement of people and goods which has enabled the country to increase its efficiency in value chains. “We have increased the ease of doing business between Rwanda and our neighboring countries as this is key to our economic growth,” said Hon. Vincent Munyeshyaka, Minister of Trade and Industry, Rwanda. Similarly, key factors to increase regional competitiveness when it comes to trade is ease of doing business for SMEs. “Many things that are constraining trade are happening inside the country rather than outside the country,” said Robert Skidmore, chief sector and enterprise competitiveness, ICT. “Secondly it is important to build a quality culture and Rwanda has made a good start on eliminating the barriers. You have to have the paperwork right which most countries do not”. The Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany (BMZ) has not been left behind in putting in place broad based initiatives to offer trade support. “We have a new tool we offer called the Agricultural Policy Advisory Fund that enhances trade,’’ said Dr. Stefan Schmitz, Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany. “It is a customer-tailored offer for trade policy orientation that allows African policy-makers to draw on analytical work and empower our partners to come up with better trade policies”. To achieve a faster transformation, the continent needs to go beyond tariffs and remove trade barriers, inter regional liberalisation of trading goods, strong political will to force regulatory reform and regional integration and availability of good quality facts and data to influence policy making. Regarding political will, everyone from the top of the pyramid needs to be committed. “We need to make sure everyone is committed to this agenda”, said Hon. Munyeshyaka. “There must be regular monitoring and evaluation to assess progress and ensure that there is accountability to enforce implementation, added Hon. Munyeshyaka. The AATSM report offers several recommendations to enhancing trade including calling on African countries to raise efforts to increase agricultural productivity, accelerating recent investments in trading infrastructure including roads, ports and airports and eliminating market disbursing policies such as export bans, import prohibitions and price controls. Additionally, removing barriers to cross-border movement of goods and harmonising standards and procedures will regulate regional trade. “Africa-wide actions aimed at co-ordinating efforts in international negotiations for better market access and the implementation of the ACTFA will help accelerate trade,” concluded Dr. Getaw Tadesse Gebreyohanes, Research Fellow, IFPRI.