UNCTAD  participated in a series of meetings held in Cotonou, Benin from 9 to 11 March 2015, to mark the 10th anniversary of the European Union-Africa Partnership on Cotton and discuss implementation of the Pan African Cotton Road Map.
The EU-Africa Partnership on Cotton was established in July 2004 at a time when the price of cotton had been following a historic downward trend since 2000. As a long term objective, the Partnership aims to contribute to fighting poverty in African cotton-producing areas by increasing the competitiveness, added value and sustainability of African cotton sectors and consequently optimise their impact on producers' incomes.
The meetings were organized by COS Coton, the Steering and Monitoring Committee of the Partnership, of which UNCTAD is an observer. The meetings were attended by representatives of the "Cotton 4" countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali; the African Union; regional economic organisations; as well as stakeholders from the cotton value chain.
Held under the theme " African Cotton at a Crossroads", it included the third Steering Committee meeting of the Support Programme for the consolidation of the Action Framework under the EU-Africa Partnership on Cotton; Technical workshops; and the 20th COS-cotton meeting.
Two half-day sessions were devoted to the Pan African Cotton Road Map, focusing on identifying the way forward for its full implementation.
UNCTAD played a lead role in the production of the Pan African Cotton Road Map, which was the result of a comprehensive multi-stakeholder consultation process.
The Road Map makes a thorough diagnostic of the challenges facing the African cotton sector and lays out a continental strategy along three thematic areas:
- Raising productivity
- Improving marketing and trade
- Increasing value-addition
It also aims to strengthen coordination mechanisms and coherence across all policies and actions at the national and regional level, in particular between regional cotton-textile-clothing strategies.
Speaking on behalf of the President of Benin, H.E. Mr. Nassirou Bako-Arifari, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and of Beninese abroad, emphasized the need for a fast resolution of the cotton issue in WTO negotiations.
He also highlighted emerging challenges facing the sector, including the need for environmental sustainability.
In his intervention, Samuel Gayi, Head of the Special Unit on Commodities at UNCTAD, paid tribute to Ambassador Séraphin Lissassi, Permanent Representative of Benin in Geneva for the key role he played in the lead up to the June 2011 Cotonou meeting where the Road Map was first outlined. He said:
|The 2011 Cotonou meeting convened by UNCTAD, the Government of Benin and the EU through COS Coton was a historical moment. For the first time in Africa, cotton stakeholders from the East, the West, and the South spent a few days together to establish a common understanding of the priorities for the development of the African cotton sector.|
The meeting concluded with a timeline for an updated version of the Road Map, highlighting its full alignment with new policy developments at the Pan African level as well as incorporating new emerging challenges and opportunities for the African cotton sector.
It is foreseen that the technical validation of the PACRM's implementation plan will lead to concrete actions being funded by supporters of the African cotton sector, chief among them is the EU-Africa Cotton Partnership.
Rajeev Arora, Executive Director of the African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF), the leading voice of the Cotton Value Chain in Africa, and a key contributor to the private sector's perspectives in the design of the Road Map expressed his wish for the process to remain inclusive. He also said
|We hope the implementation plan of the Pan African Cotton Road Map will be finalized on time for ORIGIN Africa later this year.|
The "Origin Africa" campaign is intended to help Africa make its position as a sourcing destination on the world's cotton map. Its next edition will held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 21-23 October 2015.
In African cotton producing countries such as Benin, historically, cotton represents up to 30 percent of total export value.
In light of this, Samuel Gayi said that UNCTAD will pursue its support to the sector, both through its technical cooperation pillar as well as through its Research and Analysis work.
In this regard, cotton issues will be discussed at UNCTAD's Global Commodities Forum in Geneva on 13-14 April 2015 and will also feature in the forthcoming Commodities and Development Report: Smallholder Farmers and Sustainable Commodity Development.