Pan-African Cotton Road Map: A continental strategy to strengthen regional cotton value chains for poverty reduction and food security

Despite its significance in local economies, the African cotton sector is faced with serious problems.

  • Yield is low and has considerably diminished during the last decade.

  • Cotton research in most countries suffers from a lack of organization and means.

  • Support structures for trade and marketing are not always commensurate with the economic importance of the sector.

  • Value-addition to the sector can be substantially improved.

  • The low price of seed cotton and long delays in payment to farmers have contributed to a decrease in production by as much as 50% in certain countries.

There is the need for sectoral policy support at the national, regional and Pan-African levels, following the example of sectors in countries whose producers are supported by public policy. Furthermore, synergy and coordination of existing initiatives would need to be developed and sustained.

At the international level, African cotton is undermined by distorting trade practices of some large producers. Efforts to remedy this situation through the multilateral trade system have remained at a stand-still for several years now.

Although the African cotton sector is at a historical turning point, the calamitous fall of international cotton prices from 2002 to 2009 reflects a moment that crystallized awareness in the minds of the sector’s stakeholders and public authorities on the need to safeguard the sector for the long-term. Indeed, they are now conscious that the low competitiveness of the sector is also tied to internal factors and that questions in relation thereto should be treated in parallel to WTO debates.

The spectacular rise of prices in 2010 will strengthen this awareness and further support the request made by African governments to UNCTAD in December 2008 to facilitate a high level meeting on African cotton.

Held in Cotonou at the end of June 2011, the Pan-African meeting on cotton gave participants the opportunity to outline details and expectations with regards to the sector. The Pan-African Road Map (henceforth the “Road Map”) sketched out in Cotonou and the subject of this present report, takes into account not only the conclusion of the debates but also the existing three regional strategies mainly in the areas of productivity, marketing and value-addition.

The objective of the Road Map is to create synergies between the numerous interventions in favor of African cotton, including the three strategies, and between the different categories of stakeholders at national, regional and international level. As such, it aims to become a complement to what already is in place in the regions by providing a common framework at the Pan-African level that addresses the three existing strategies and national and regional policies from a Pan-African perspective.

This Road Map is organized as follows:

  1. Part I succinctly describes the background to the Road Map, its link to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals and the translation of these into actions to be conducted.

  2. Part II enunciates the Road Map’s various activities based on the outcome of the Cotonou meeting around the three themes: Productivity, Marketing and Value-addition.

    This part also introduces other proposals, facilitation of the Road Map, its Action Plan and indicators of progress.