As COVID-19 threatens rice imports from Asia, West Africa has an opportunity to reignite its ambitions of a regional value chain. But this would require coherence in policies and collective action.
As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches African shores, countries are grappling with questions of food security. This seems to confirm a longstanding concern among many countries to reduce their reliance on food imports. Take the example of rice in West Africa. In the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) up to half of the regional rice consumption needs is met through imports. This external reliance is what led ECOWAS countries to agree to a ‘Rice Offensive’ in 2014, to boost production in the region. It is also behind the Nigerian border closures seen last year.
Regional value chains have often failed to take off because national interests trump regional agendas. But at extraordinary times like these, there is a case to give precedence to regional strategies rather than narrowly focusing on national responses.Read More »