AFRICA – The 2022 Annual Trends and Outlook Report (ATOR) says Africa must accelerate its transition from mainly producing and exporting raw materials and importing processed foods to develop a thriving and competitive agro-processing sector that delivers on the African Union’s Agenda 2063 targets of economic growth, wealth generation, and employment.

The “Agrifood processing strategies for successful food systems transformation in Africa” report reveals that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) showed the largest share of processed and semi-processed intra-African exports in 2018–2020, as well as the largest increase in the share of processed exports between the two periods.

The authors of the report estimate that 72% of all agricultural products traded within the continent have undergone a partial or total transformation, a jump compared to the period 2003-2005 (63%).

While it appears that African markets provide more attractive destinations for locally processed products than unprocessed products, the report notes that much-untapped potential remains for local producers and processors to reach expanding urban markets.

 In 2019, 53 percent of Africa’s total exports of processed agricultural products were traded within the continent to less than 10 percent of unprocessed agricultural exports.

According to the document, 77% of intra-African exports of agricultural commodities from ECOWAS underwent total or partial processing. The figure stood at 76% in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) over the period.

These two percentages exceed those of other regions, such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (73%), the Southern African Development Community (71%), or the Community of East Africa (70%).

ECCAS is the regional economic community (REC) where products are the most semi-processed with 41% against 26% for the rest of Africa.

Meanwhile, the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) formed by Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Algeria, displays the highest rate of a total transformation of agricultural products (62%) to 46% for the continent.

This high level of processing of agricultural products reflects the changes in food habits at work on the continent, which are driven by growing urbanization. A trend that helps stimulate the agri-food sector and generates new economic opportunities for actors at both local and regional levels.

The report underscores the processing sector has become an essential link between producers and consumers, alleviating demand constraints and enabling smallholders’ access to markets.

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