Food import bill for West Africans may hit $1 trillion

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The U. S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, Mr Phillip Carter, said in Abidjan that West Africa’s food import bill will shoot up to a trillion dollars in 20 years as the economies in the region record fast growth.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a conference on removing trade barriers in West Africa, Carter noted that the current food cost which stood at 313 billion dollars, might quadruple.

Carter observed the need to tackle the issue of trade barriers in the West African region as food prices continued to shoot up due to continuous importation which could be checked with intra-regional regional trade.

Carter said: “the stakes are higher when one considers how trade barriers drive up the price of food. Within 20 years, West Africa will have 50 cities with populations of over one million.

“By that time, sub-Saharan Africa’s food and beverage markets will reach one trillion dollars, up from 313 billion U S dollars currently.

“In about 30 years, Africa’s population will have doubled – roughly one out of five of the world’s population will be living in Africa.’’

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Quoting reports from the African Developing Bank, the U. S. Ambassador said that the sub-Sahara region had seen sustained growth over the last 10 years that had bred the emergence of the middle class.

He said: “In addition to higher standards of living and better quality of life, the emergence of the middle class also portends a period of political stability.

“Whereever economic opportunity emerges, where people have real chances to improve their livelihoods, the potential for conflict is lowered.‘’

In her remarks at the ceremony, the U S Assistant Representative for Trade in Africa, Florie Liser, said that transit regulations, bureaucracy, customs and multiple security structures had negative effects on trade.

According to her, the transit barriers add up to trade costs in the region which eventually reduce the quantity and quality of trade between the various West Africa countries.

She said that the African Growth Opportunities Act, the U.S. preferential trade agreement with Africa, had so far provided opportunities for 40 countries.