Agricultural Trade and Market Access for Food Security: Micro -and Macro-level Insights for Africa

Project consortium and fund

  • Bernhard Brümmer (, University of Göttingen, Germany – funding body BLE
  • Marie-Luise Rau (, Wageningen University, The Netherlands – funding body NWO
  • Edward Ebo Onumah (, University of Ghana, Ghana – funding body CSIR-STEPRI
  • Ferdinand Meyer (, University of Pretoria, South Africa – funding body NRF / BLE, Germany
  • Ibrahima Thiam (, University of Thìes, Senegal – funding body DFRSDT
  • Miet Maertens (, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium – funding body FWO
  • Peter Verbaas (, GroentenFruit Huis, The Netherlands – associated partner
  • Fabien Tondel (, European Centre for Development Policy Management – associated partner
  • Johann Kirsten (, Bureau for Economic Research, Stellenbosch University, South Africa – NWO

Thematic and geographic area of the project:    

  • Food value-chain
  • Rural development and agricultural economy.
  • Food systems governance and farmers organizations

The development of markets for agricultural products in Africa faces manifold product access, price and institutional challenges. On the one hand, value chain development as well as better integration of local markets into regional/international trade has the potential to improve livelihoods and food security, in particular in rural regions. At the same time, regional markets in Africa have become increasingly important due to the growing demand of a growing and increasingly urban population. On the other hand, trade barriers hamper the further value chain development and market access. Unleashing the potential for reductions in (often inflated) trade costs requires a better under-standing of the key inhibitors of trade facilitation, e.g. inadequate physical infrastructure, lack of transparent regulatory frameworks and product quality or excessively protective public/private standards. We aim at improving market access for countries and firms/farms in local, regional and international markets through a better understanding of the micro- and macro-economic dimensions of specific trade-related factors and through enhanced interaction with stakeholders from public, private and civil society sectors. We analyse how market access is influenced by trade agreements, non-tariff measures (NTMs) e.g. sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, technical barriers to trade (TBT) and customs procedures and private standards, price trends and volatility, market logistics/infrastructure and institutions in Africa-EU agricultural trade. We focus at the national level in Africa on Ghana, Senegal and South Africa, and at the regional level on ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and SADC (Southern Africa Development Community).

Project’s summary/abstract:                    

Agri-food markets in Africa are not well integrated at the local, regional an international level, with trade barriers hampering exports/imports as well as the value chain development. Trade via better market access has the potential to create income and welfare, while improving the food security situation, i.e. providing people in Africa with sufficient food of an acceptable quality level at fair prices. We will look into opportunities and challenges for expanding local, regional and international trade and market access, while considering supply chains from the African importer/exporter perspective. Specifically, we address trade and market access issues in three African countries (Senegal, Ghana and South Africa) and two African trade regions (Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and Southern Africa, SADC) and EU-Africa trade relations. The focus is on three product categories that are important for current and potential African trade: fresh fruits and vegetables, grain products as well as meat. For the countries/regions and products, we investigate how trade and market access is influenced by trade agreements, non-tariff measures, e.g. sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barrier to trade and customs procedures and private standards, price trends and volatility, market logistics/infrastructure and institutions. For the analysis, we apply quantitative and qualitative methods to look into the effects on local, regional and international trade, at both the macro- and micro-level. This includes obtaining first-hand information on the trade and market access issues from key stakeholders.

5. Project’s main objective(s):                             

We will generate more integrated and comparative evidence on the multiple dimensions of trade – including local, regional and international trade, and export as well as import flows – and evidence from West Africa/ECOWAS. We investigate trade and market access issues our target areas for three product categories that are important for current and potential African trade: fresh fruits and vegetables (FFVs), grain products as well as red meat and poultry. Our multi-country, multi-market, and multi-scale research approach extends standard case-study approaches in a number of dimensions. First, we add cross-county comparisons along a gradient of market integration. Second, we analyse the functioning of markets both at the micro- and at the macro-level, in order to combine an improved understanding of the local mechanisms at work for individual decision makers with the consequences at the politically relevant levels of the countries/regions. Third, we take into account interactions between local, regional and international markets.

Our methodological approach takes into account three dimensions of trade of market access:

  1. local, regional and international trade;
  2. exports and imports; and
  3. micro and macro-level effects.

The combination of these three dimensions allows us to look at both imports and exports in a comparative approach. The combined macro- and micro-economic analyses are innovative since the results shed light on the implications at both country and firm levels, while exploiting methodological advances in new trade theory with a micro-level underpinning and application. Simultaneous analyses of down- and up-stream links help to understand trickle-down effects within supply chains and to explore network structures.

Theory of Change and Impact Pathway

Summary ToC with assumptions                         

Our dissemination strategy emphasizes the knowledge generation and sharing with specific stakeholder groups: business, policy-makers and researchers. We will gear the project output towards them by involving them right from the beginning of the project. Furthermore, we will make the research results accessible/available for uptake beyond the project. The different means of conveying our results are part of our communication strategy that will be developed in detail at the kick-off meeting and validated at stakeholders meetings. For each group, we use specific dissemination strategies:

Researchers: high-quality scientific contributions, user-friendly databases that can be readily applied (online tools), training/webinar;

Policy-makers: country-specific conclusions and present them in policy briefs but also via the project website (blog), dialogue meetings to present/discuss our research results;

Business: insights on requirements and standards, thereby extending beyond the international effort of transparency about NTMs since we will generate and transfer knowledge about such measures in Africa and Europe, via dialogue and exchange at meetings but also briefs and messages via the project website (blog), and via interactive online tools (apps) for knowledge transfer that will comply to business needs.

Expected outcomes and impact:                          

The results of our analyses provide evidence that supports the formulation of targeted policies and programmes. Furthermore, they will point out how to improve market access by identifying which actors along the supply chain should be targeted. Our findings will help to minimize the downsides of existing trade barriers, thereby having an impact on the prevalent realities when producing/selling the respective products at the local, regional and/or international market. Furthermore, the results will generate insights into opportunities and challenges for expanding local, regional and international trade and for improving access to agri-food markets for different types of actors. Better trade conditions, in particular for agricultural products, constitute a key component for a viable food security strategy in Africa. Ultimately, this proposal will identify policy and investment priorities in order to make agricultural trade work for improved food security.