Corporate Africa investigates food and security projects planned by agencies  covering common agricultural policy for the CEMAC and  ECCAS regions of West and Central Africa. The projects are seeking to build sustainable farming systems, developing people, communities, economies and the environment. What follows is an interview with the agencies promoting the projects.

Tell us a little more about the goals aims and objectives of these projects including the Capacity Building of Private and Public Agencies and Trade and Government Boards in ECCAS countries; the Agricultural Productivity Program in Central Africa (PPAAC); Facilitation of Regional Trade in Agriculture Products in Central Africa; Promotion of Livestock and the Pastoral Economy; Improved Access to Food for vulnerable People and developing Coffee Sector; Fisheries and Aquaculture Development; Sustainable Management of natural Resources and Arable Land; and Cotton Value Chain Development.

The aim of this initiative is to achieve better coordination between Central African states and to create more autonomy for the region in the food sector. Central African countries face the same economic problems and the same food deficit. Why not find common ground and achieve an acceleration of the rate of production by improving and adding the forces of individual productions. You may have noticed that many institutions are involved in the process but their ultimate goal of stabilization in the region is the same. It is imperative to work together to avoid institutional collusion and to give a single goal to all forces

In what countries and regions of Africa will these projects be implemented?

In all the countries of Central Africa: the six countries (Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Chad) sharing the same currency (the CFA Franc) + Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda , Sao Tome & Principe

There are also projects to Promote Young Entrepreneurs in rural areas and towns surrounding urban conurbations, and to Build Animal and Fish Production to increase Food Sustainability and In total the costs of the projects are near to half a billion Euros. So tell about the plans and timing to implement these projects and their duration and production dates.

Among the community initiative sheets, there is an initiative that is exclusively for young agricultural entrepreneurs. It is the Regional Program for Support to Young Entrepreneurship in Central Africa (PREJAC). The aim of this program is to promote agricultural entrepreneurship for young people through the creation and development of Micro-Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in the agrosilvopastoral and fisheries sector. ECCAS is currently in discussions with the AfDB for the mobilization of more than 50 million US dollars to implement the PREJAC, which will be implemented in two phases of five (years) over a period of 10 years. The year 2020 is selected as the year of implementation of PREJAC by the AfDB

Tell us about the sponsors and promoters of these projects and what role will national governments play in their implementation and sustainability?

Sponsors and promoters are multilateral financial and development institutions, as well as private and state-owned companies, but money is not the only need. For the success of such a plan, it will be necessary to mobilize the know-how and the appropriate technologies as well as the experienced people able to align the projects and finally to establish a solid logistic plan. We need teams of experienced experts capable of establishing a realistic development plan for the region. The selection of the partners will be essential for the funds, the coordination of the tasks as for the technique. At the same time, government authorities must provide a legal basis for the free movement of goods, the harmonization of border tax and investment code policies, as well as a clearer picture of their existing food industries. Information will be the key to determining the benefits and weaknesses of each country

Who are the major beneficiaries of these projects, and how will they benefit including citizens in the project communities and project owners and players?

The beneficiaries will be local people and SMEs in the food sector. The latter will have more means of financing and infrastructure to increase their production capacity and hiring. At the same time, people of working age in rural areas who are looking for a job will be affected. They will experience a sector offering new opportunities in its entire value chain (agriculture, fisheries, livestock): land work, rural infrastructure, seeds, packaging, monitoring of production quality, distribution, market sales and others spaces …). The impact will be above all socio-economic because the purchasing power of households will increase and the availability of food will be greater; Governments will be able to import less food and keep more reserves. Finally, the official institutions of the sector will be strengthened by teams with means to financially, administratively and technically support SMEs.

In the main these are public sector projects and is there space for the private sector to be involved? And if so will it only be as financiers and technical advisers or are there other roles for foreign investors and development and strategic partners? If so, what are they for both public and private sectors?

Only the initiative is public. The economic development of a country stems from the ability to create a strong private sector. Only private initiatives and ideas can create substantial jobs. An economy is never worn alone by public employment. The responsibility of the public authorities is to push the initiative towards the growth sectors for a sustainable economy. Foreign investors and partners are crucial to bring their know-how and expertise, in addition to funding, to develop these projects and work in collaboration with the governments, but especially to help strengthen the private sector.

What about institutional investors and foreign governments and multi- lateral organizations like the World Bank are any of them involves or is there capacity built in for their involvement in terms of finance or technical and policy directions?

Institutional investors are there, modestly, but there is room for everyone. The focus should be on the choice of reimbursement systems. Autonomy is what we are looking for, so it is necessary to either receive donations or to borrow on the basis of a precise forecast plan with an expected margin of error.

The projects have excellent capacity to generate revenues and create opportunities across multi-sectors. Are there any gross revenues forecasts at this moment in terms of annual return financially, and returns on investments, and fiscal impact on the economies of participating countries?

All projects selected under PRIASAN are intended to address the main issues facing regional agriculture. Regional agriculture is the main source of income for about half of the assets, mainly smallholders. In the absence of a major move to intensify production systems, farm income is low even though farmers are unable to meet the food needs of the regional population. The option is therefore to increase production volumes in the different sub-sectors (subsistence crop and cash crop production / export, animal production and fisheries / aquaculture), by encouraging the intensification or securing of production systems. to enable the regional level to engage: the increase in the volume of products placed on the market and the revenues derived from the marketing of these products;

  • increasing the region’s degree of self-sufficiency and reducing the foreign exchange cost of extra-African imports;
  • increased volumes of exported products to contribute to the economic growth of a region whose agricultural potential is one of the main sources of growth. In addition, production growth is expected to improve food security in rural areas, either through increased consumption of self-consumed food or by improving the purchasing power of agricultural and rural households, enabling them to acquire on the market enough to satisfy their needs.

Also what period after the projects implementation phase are returns on investments expected, and what are their projected growths during subsequent phases of the projects?

Through the PRIASAN, ECCAS seeks to create a real regional market for agrosilvopastoral and fisheries products and to guarantee investors a return on investment in the medium and long term. Member States will be strongly involved in the field of financial resources and will be responsible for the development of the FSRDA (Regional Special Fund for Agricultural Development (FSRDA),which remains the only way to support agricultural research and innovation to meet the diverse needs of producers.

How would prospective funders and financiers be repaid and what security can the project owners and promoters offer them to generate confidence and global awareness?

In the framework of PRIASAN it is envisaged the establishment of guarantee funds and refinancing line at attractive rates that will increase the volume of business, and therefore the impact in terms of market regulation, but to lower the price risk by offering lower cost credits. In the case of guarantee funds, a specialized financial institution will be able to guarantee refinancing granted in the form of loans by a commercial bank to a Micro-Finance Institution (MFI). This financial mechanism could be hosted by an already existing institutionalized guarantee fund with headquarters at regional level.