The Senegalese government on Wednesday announced that the country will work with UNCTAD to boost the competitiveness of its cashew and mango exports.
The two sectors combined account for only 2% of Senegal's total goods exports but provide income for more than 100,000 families in Casamance -- the country's southern region wedged between the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau-- where poverty rates are among the highest in the country.
“By focusing on cashews and mangoes, the UNCTAD project will meet strategic orientations defined by the Senegalese government in terms of export objectives and environmental protection,” said Cheikh Fofana, a deputy director at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.
The announcement came after a two-day workshop in Dakar, during which government officials, producers, entrepreneurs, researchers and civil society representatives assessed a handful of promising "green" export sectors, including natural cosmetics, bananas and fish products.
Mangos and cashews were ultimately selected for the project, the UNCTAD National Green Export Review of Senegal, because of their potential to provide the biggest economic, environmental and social benefits, workshop participants said.
West Africa has become a major cashew producer, with three countries among the world's top five exporters. But Senegal, better known for peanuts, has lagged behind.
And the country is losing export revenue to Ghana, who currently processes a portion of Senegal's mangos before re-exporting them to England at higher value.
According to Gilles Abraham Amary Mbaye, who works with Senegalese mango producers, “The share of exported mango is only between 12 to 15% of national production, and only between 1 and 2% of the production is processed”.
Increasing processed exports, such as mango butter or cashew oil, two inputs for the booming natural cosmetics industry, will therefore be key to adding value to the sectors, one of the project's main goals.
Equally important, project coordinator Robert Hamwey said, will be "to increase consumer awareness of Senegal’s sustainable agricultural production methods, with and without certification by a foreign entity."
Although most producers in the country use organic and socially equitable production practices, many cannot afford the high cost of certification required in many foreign markets.
As a next step, UNCTAD will work with national experts to devise an action plan, which will be presented in mid-2018 to stakeholders in both sectors.
National Green Export Reviews, launched in 2014, have become a major part of UNCTAD's work to help developing countries diversify their economies by building competitive green economic sectors.
UNCTAD has so far completed National Green Export Reviews for Ecuador, Vanuatu, Morocco and Ethiopia. In addition to Senegal, reviews for Lebanon, Madagascar, Moldova and Oman are currently underway.
Senegal’s National Green Export Review is funded primarily by the Islamic Development Bank. It also receives funds from United Nations Development Account.