Among the important points that are regularly referred to in order to characterize the inefficiency of private sector activity in our country is the difficulty of recovering payment due for merchandise sold or service rendered. Even that, in many cases, hideous operators has made it a business. They are encouraged in this by judicial slowness and / or its inefficiency which repels the creditors to ask to have their payment by way of justice and sometimes even give up to claim. There are somewhat similar difficulties in terms of international trade for our African countries. In fact, in the case of food products, the WTO, the international regulatory body, refers to the Codex Alimentarius for its role of arbitration of disputes, a principle that everyone agrees with. But, the process is cumbersome, very expensive and extremely slow which contravenes the dynamics of profitable trade. Moreover, the experts who can investigate such cases are in the northern hemisphere as well as the “authorities empowered to recognize them”. It is therefore understandable that, despite the many cases of gross and documented trade injustices from EU countries to African countries, none of our States dares to litigate in the WTO.
Some object to this finding by arguing that commercial transactions are the prerogative of private operators whose goods are themselves certified by private providers. They are not wrong about form, but alongside a few providers who simply do the work that is asked of them, the reality is much more complex. The food trade, from south to north, is now hostage to thousands of texts and standards, the number of which is increasing year by year. Unless it is perfectly naive, it is difficult to adhere to the assumption that all this deluge of standards, the majority of which is produced by the EU, has for its sole purpose the verification sensu stricto of the food safety status of food products in question. There are many examples, some of which have been covered in several articles of this blog, which illustrate the huge financial shortfall for our African countries as a result of the application of standards imposed on the export of our Goods for obvious considerations of trade restriction very remote from food safety itself. The difficulty is not, however, in the diagnosis, but in the search for the possible solution to initiate a path, which will inevitably be slow and difficult, in order to reduce some of the inequality in trade between Africa and the rest of the world, and with the EU in the first place.
Some people sometimes suggest that they address the Codex Alimentarius bodies without having a clear idea of what exactly to ask of this body, or whether the Forum has any prerogative to resolve the imbalance Trade in Africa. For at the end of the ends, in a somewhat schematic way, the Codex is above all the guardianship on a collection of texts which have been adopted by consensus, frequently in the absence of the countries concerned but which are now in force. Without forgetting that by playing a little, with a little degree of bad faith, on the famous “Precautionary Principle” and the no less famous clause that each country has the right to take measures to preserve the health of its Citizens, and other technical and procedural aspects of the Codex texts, there are loopholes in the shape of a boulevard for any country wishing to use such tools to its advantage to refuse products that it does not want on its market for one reason or another.
As can be inferred, our African countries are not in a position to rebalance our deficit balances with our northern neighbors by taking the regulatory paths they have set up themselves and Want to put at our disposal. A frontal clash on the inflation of standards would also not be indicated because in the most optimistic scenario, this would eventually lead to a victory of Pyrrhus without any interest for our countries which are sorely lacking in resources.
In college, we learned that understanding a problem is 50% of the solution. So, what are our problems in Africa in the agri-food sector? We sell our agricultural raw materials at ridiculous prices and we buy the corresponding finished products at prohibitive prices. In this respect the problem is much less serious than if we had no raw materials. Moreover, everyone is aware that the know-how exists in our countries or it is easily accessible. Funding follows previous considerations. For what is lacking, King Mohammed VI has clearly pointed out during his speech of 31 January 2017 before the 28th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa that Africa must now trust its own Rather than borrowing external expertise which is increasingly inadequate to help advance development in Africa.
For all of the above and other more intimate considerations, the time has come to launch a Continental Certification Label for Africa, based on rigorous scientific and technical criteria and financially affordable by SMEs and local cooperatives so to honor the operators of our continent who are working in line with the Codex Alimentarius Code of Food Safety rules in the food chain. And to boost inter-African trade in the agri-food sector, which is the first goal to be achieved in the near future.