Empowering youth to engage in the agricultural sector is key to stimulate economic growth in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)

Empowering youth to engage in the agricultural sector is key to stimulate economic growth in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)

PRETORIA, South Africa, March 22, 2018/ — Action is needed to enhance agricultural investments by and with young agri-entrepreneurs. Empowering youth to engage in the agricultural sector is key to create livelihood opportunities, achieve food security and stimulate economic growth in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries.

In this regard, FAO and the Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa organized a multistakeholder workshop. The main purpose of the workshop was to identify capacities of youth to carry out and benefit from responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in the SADC region.

In a statement to officially open the workshop, Lewis Hove, FAO Representative to South Africa a.i, said agriculture and rural development were central to the achievement of some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The realization of the first two Sustainable Development Goals, the eradication of hunger and poverty by 2030 will require US$98 billion additional annual investments in the SADC region, of which 55 per cent will need to target agriculture and rural development,” Hove added. This workshop seeks to contribute to respond to a need for action which is “well recognized at regional and global levels”, Hove stressed.

Representatives from youth organizations, government, civil society and the private sector from Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa who attended the workshop identified policies, laws, organizational and individual capacities that are needed to increase investments by and for youth in the agricultural sector. “By increasing our understanding on the specific challenges of youth in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, FAO will ultimately provide appropriate support to increase responsible investment in agriculture, which is urgently needed in the region”, Hove said. Regional and global action to empower young agri-entrepreneurs.

In Africa, most of the states recognise the role of the youth in agriculture. In particular, the members of the African Union have jointly committed to create job opportunities for at least 30 percent of youth in agricultural value chains in the Malabo Declaration. At the global level, the fourth Principle for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems of the Committee on World Food Security aims to “engage and empower youth”.
Testing innovative tools

The Southern African workshop is part of a series of events co-organized by FAO in Africa, which aim to pilot test a rapid capacity assessment tool on youth and responsible investment. The tool, whose development is supported by the Swiss government, will be made available with guiding notes in late 2018 with the aim to help interested practitioners carry out their own assessments of capacities for enhanced investment in agriculture by and for youth. Twitter: #FAOCapDev and CFSRAI

Human Rights Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Human Rights Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

SOURCE United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 14, 2018/ — The Human Rights Council this afternoon (March 13, 2018) held an interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

Presenting the report, Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, drew the Council’s attention to a staggering 2.4 million children who were displaced from their homes in South Sudan. The conflict had spread to almost all of South Sudan. Ms. Sooka noted that the Peace Agreement had stipulated the need for the establishment of a Hybrid Court for South Sudan straight away by the Government through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union. If that did not happen, the African Union had the authority to set up a Hybrid Court, outside the country if necessary, to try alleged perpetrators for South Sudan. However, the Commission was acutely aware that a Hybrid Court could not deal with the staggering number of violations in South Sudan, and that the impunity gap should be filled by the Truth Commission which should have already been established.

Paulino Wanawilla Unango, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of South Sudan, said the report was full of repetitions and flaws. There was an improvement in the human rights situation, through national dialogue, the Technical Committee for the Establishment of Truth and Healing, and the reformation and training of officers in human rights and international and domestic law. Since 2011, over 2,000 children had been identified, screened and released from armed groups. It was not true that there was impunity – over 200 cases had already been examined for violations while on duty.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers strongly condemned the widespread violence which continued in total impunity in the last few months, which violated international humanitarian law, and which could constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. They said the downward spiral must halt and urged the Government to establish a Truth and Reparations Commission, to speed up the other transitional justice mechanisms, and to ensure that perpetrators of crimes were brought to justice. The culture of impunity among political and military leaders could no longer be tolerated, they said. While some called on the African Union to establish the Hybrid Court outside of the territory of South Sudan, others called upon the Government of South Sudan to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Hybrid Court within South Sudan. Speakers called on the Government to ensure continued and unhindered access to humanitarian aid. Others believed that a political solution was the only way out of the South Sudan problem, and encouraged the international community to sustain its synergies in this direction and to assist with the economic and humanitarian situation in the country. They called upon all parties to genuinely implement the peace agreement.

Speaking were European Union, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, United States, Australia, France, China, Albania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Botswana, Sudan, Eritrea, United Kingdom, Ireland, Kenya, Norway, Mozambique and Algeria.

The following civil society organizations also spoke: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme.

The Council has a full day of meetings scheduled today. It will next hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.


The Council has before it the Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (A/HRC/37/71)

The Council has before it an annex to the Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (A/HRC/37/CRP.2)

Presentation by the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

YASMIN SOOKA, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, drew attention to a staggering 2.4 million children who were displaced from their homes in South Sudan. They lived in makeshift settlements on empty land with grossly inadequate support. In some cases, if there was a school, 400 children could sit in a class. Overall, two million South Sudanese children were reported to be out of school, which was 72 per cent, the highest proportion anywhere in the world. If the conflict continued, only one in 13 would even finish primary school. The conflict had spread to almost all of South Sudan. As the country fractured along multiple fault lines, ethnic and political, millions had fled. They urgently needed the fighting to stop and the armed actors to abide by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement so that they were able to go back to their ancestral villages, reclaim their homes, grow their crops and tend their cattle. The longer communities remained dispersed, the more their traditional structures died out, their culture crumbled and the economy disintegrated. Ms. Sooka reminded that in March 2017, the Council had given the Commission an enhanced mandate – to collect and preserve evidence – with a view to sharing it with the Hybrid Court, a Truth Commission, and a reparations body agreed under the peace agreement for South Sudan. Her team had been able to visit most of the conflict-affected areas in South Sudan, as well as to see towns like Malakal, Yei, Torit and Wau, which had been emptied of their populations, and had then seen those people in refugee camps on the other side of the border. Ms. Sooka thanked the Government of South Sudan for making the visit possible and for the constructive engagement with many Government representatives, all over the country.

The Commission had collected thousands of documents and taken statements from hundreds of witnesses. That material would be invaluable to a prosecutor one day in proving command responsibility. The continuous collection and analysis of that evidence was critical to the accountability process. The Commission’s report focused on five recent emblematic incidents, established a victims’ evidence base and collected linkage evidence in what had been ground breaking work. The Commission used a “reasonable grounds” standard of proof. It had focused not only on establishing the occurrence of violations but also on identifying those bearing command and superior responsibility for them. And the opposition should note that command responsibility was not restricted to State actors alone. The Commission had identified several South Sudanese officials who might bear individual responsibility for serious violations of human rights and international crimes committed since 2013. As it was customary with United Nations reports, the Commission did not name those individuals, not least because it did not want to jeopardize any future judicial proceedings.

Part of the Commission’s mandate involved providing guidance on transitional justice. Ms. Sooka noted that the Hybrid Court for South Sudan that was stipulated in the peace agreement should be set up straight away. All that was necessary was for the Government to sign the Memorandum of Understanding. If that did not happen, the African Union had the authority to set up a Hybrid Court, outside the country if necessary, to try alleged perpetrators for South Sudan. However, the Commission was acutely aware that a Hybrid Court could not deal with the staggering number of violations in South Sudan; and that the impunity gap should be filled by the Truth Commission, which should have already been established by now. Ms. Sooka called on the Government to demonstrate its intent regarding reparations by making budgetary provisions for a Victims’ Trust Fund immediately. The timing of the Government’s National Dialogue process had been criticized by most South Sudanese who argued that any dialogue process had to be carried out in terms of Chapter V of the Peace Agreement to be credible but more than anything, the Government had to create a conducive environment for consultations, where independent journalists and critics did not have to fear for their lives if they offered a dissenting view. Criminal accountability through the hybrid court needed political will. The mandate and work of the Commission had raised the expectations of victims – they were not walking through the night to document their suffering on the off chance that there might one day be justice. They wanted the world to act now to ensure their children had a chance to be doctors, engineers and pilots.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union was appalled by reports of sexual violence, particularly against women and girls. South Sudan bore immediate responsibility to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice. The European Union called for the signing with the African Union of the Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a Hybrid Court to deal with serious human rights violations. Germany noted South Sudan’s cooperation with the Commission. Germany called for all perpetrators of human rights violations to be held accountable and asked what judicial follow-up processes existed in South Sudan. Denmark said the scale of human suffering in South Sudan was almost beyond description. All parties to the conflict continued to undertake attacks and crimes were committed against populations that the Government claimed to protect. Access to humanitarian assistance remained restricted.

Spain condemned violations of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and arbitrary detentions. Spain reiterated past recommendations for Sudan to take action to ensure the protection of children in armed conflict. Nearly half of the population was in need of humanitarian assistance. Switzerland was alarmed at the serious rights violations in South Sudan that could constitute crimes against humanity. All parties to the conflict were asked to cooperate with United Nations entities to help bring an end to the crisis. United States commended the Commission’s preservation of documents that could help hold perpetrators of crimes accountable. The level of brutality documented by the Commission was appalling. The United States asked if a United Nations arms embargo could help address the crisis.

Australia expressed deep concern about the gross human rights situation in South Sudan, some of which constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity. It added that sanctions were a legitimate means of effecting change in the absence of real progress towards peace. France hailed the cooperation of the Government of South Sudan with the Commission, but voiced concern about continued human rights violations, especially those targeting children. It noted that the Government was primarily responsible for the protection of its civilians. China noted that Africans should address their own issues in the African way. A political solution was the only way to solve the crisis in South Sudan, and China called on the international community to pay special attention to the refugee problem in that country. Albania welcomed the continued cooperation of South Sudan with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, but it remained concerned about the growing number of violations in the country, some of which could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Statement by the Concerned Country

PAULINO WANAWILLA UNANGO, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of South Sudan, noted that the report was generalized, and was full of repetitions and flaws. Two examples of those flaws were identifying the Former Detainees and the People Democratic Movement as part of non-State armed groups, and describing Mathiang Anyoor as militia. The reality was that the Former Detainees and the People Democratic Movement were political bodies without armed forces, while Mathiang Anyoor was part of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and not militia. Since the last update to the Council in September 2017, the security situation in the country had continued to improve due to the engagement with communities in the peace process through the national dialogue, and the Technical Committee for the Establishment of the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2013, the SPLA Child Protection Unit and the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, had identified, screened and released 2,211 children. The children recruited by different armed groups had been released after each group had reached an agreement with the Government. Mr. Unango also reminded that the SPLA Court Martial had tried 203 cases related to various offences committed by SPLA personnel, whereas SPLA senior officers had been trained in the six grave violations of child’s rights and child protection.

Interactive Dialogue

Netherlands was appalled by the report’s findings of gross human rights violations, some of which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Government of South Sudan and the African Union were called on to urgently take definite steps towards the establishment of the Hybrid Court as well as to speed up the implementation of the other transitional justice elements. New Zealand said that the report highlighted the deliberate targeting of civilians based on ethnic identity, including killings, abductions, rape and sexual violence. The signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in December 2017 was welcomed, although the violations of the agreement continued. Botswana was concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict and stressed the importance of unhindered humanitarian access. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a Hybrid Court would demonstrate South Sudan’s and the African Union’s commitment to finding a lasting solution to the plight of the people.

Sudan welcomed the cooperation of South Sudan with the international community. The resolution of the conflict was encouraged through national dialogue and regional mechanisms, including the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. United Kingdom reminded that last year the Council had struggled to comprehend the extraordinary levels of violence inflicted on civilians throughout South Sudan, and now it had worsened. South Sudan’s leaders were called on to work towards peace through the High-Level Revitalization Forum. Ireland echoed calls for the Government of South Sudan and all parties to the conflict to abide by the recent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. What could be done to integrate psycho-social support into the design of justice and conflict resolution mechanisms and how could the international community better address that need?

Kenya commended the Government of South Sudan for facilitating the work of the Commission in its missions, stating that South Sudan presented one of the most complex environments for ensuring accountability and promoting transitional justice. The peace agreement provided for the establishment of a Hybrid Court, a Truth Commission, and a Reparations Authority, and in this direction, Kenya urged the Government to speed up the establishment of these bodies. Norway condemned the crimes and violations in South Sudan in the strongest terms, stating that the primary responsibility to protect the population lay with the Government. It encouraged the African Union to establish as soon as possible the Hybrid Court, and encouraged South Sudan to press charges through the civil court system and not through the military court alone. Mozambique called upon the international community to support the implementation of transitional justice and accountability, including setting up of an Independent Hybrid Court with the cooperation of the African Union, the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, as well as other measures contained in the report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. Algeria commended the cooperation of the Government of South Sudan with human rights mechanisms. It had conducted prosecutions against war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, through the Hybrid Court that the African Union had established. All stakeholders were called on to implement the United Nations resolutions and appealed to all parties to work together for a lasting solution to the conflict.

Human Rights Watch said its research echoed the deeply disturbing findings in the Commission’s new report. South Sudan’s civil war, now in its fifth year, had shattered the new country. Parties to the conflict had engaged in deliberate killings of civilians, destruction of civilian property, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances as well as widespread rape and sexual violence. Amnesty International shared the Commission’s shock and outrage over the killing, rape, abduction, detention and other human rights violations against South Sudanese civilians committed by both government and opposition forces, often based on ethnicity. It had documented numerous war crimes by all sides. The National Security Services and Military Intelligence Directorate had continued to arbitrarily arrest and detain perceived government opponents.

Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship voiced concern about the violations of freedom of expression which had contributed to the cycle of violence in South Sudan. Impunity for attacks and murder of journalists had to be addressed. The Government had failed to provide any information about such incidents. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project noted that human rights defenders in South Sudan, who were struggling to document the ongoing violations, were faced with harassment, threats against their life, and reprisals. There was no mechanism to ensure accountability for what could amount to crimes against humanity; no senior officials were on trial. Without accountability there could be no lasting peace and reconciliation. International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stressed that the situation in South Sudan was deeply alarming, while the scale and severity of atrocities committed against civilians amounted to crimes against humanity. External influences, such as transnational oil companies, and internal factors, such as corruption in the Government, had to be seriously investigated. Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme stated that the grotesque nature of widespread sexual violence against civilians and the total disregard for human life along ethnic lines in South Sudan was extremely alarming. It was evident that the South Sudanese parties did not intend to comply even with their own agreements.

Concluding Remarks

ANDREW CLAPHAM, Member of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, thanked the political parties which had become part of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. Concerning the immediate priorities of the Government of South Sudan, these were the establishment of the Hybrid Court and the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes or those who failed to prevent crimes, as well as regulating criminalization within the national legislation system of South Sudan. Member States of the United Nations and the African Union could support the Hybrid Court, and continue humanitarian assistance, while help could be provided for the Victims’ Fund. The report took into account that proceedings for crimes against humanity did not necessarily have to take place in South Sudan but could be prosecuted in countries that were signatories of the Convention against Torture. To further facilitate the work of the Commission, the right resources were needed to assist in analyzing the documents obtained. The Commission was tasked by the Council to identify crimes committed in South Sudan and it had identified crimes under South Sudanese laws, war crimes, particularly rape and pillage, and crimes against humanity, particularly rape and persecution on ethnic grounds. The question asked by South Sudanese was reiterated to the Council – what would the international community do about the suffering of the people in South Sudan?

YASMIN SOOKA, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said that concerning the matter of 72 per cent of the child population which was out of school, this was a consequence of the conflict, including displacement of teachers, destruction of schools and recruitment of children into conflict. Thus, the recruitment of children had to stop and the education system had to be rebuilt, requiring enormous resources. Additionally, interim reparations mechanisms needed to be established, reallocating funds from military spending to alleviate the consequences of conflict. The Government had established a Working Group which had not been able to do a lot, due to the national dialogue process. Many argued that national dialogue should only occur within the framework of Chapter V of the Peace Agreement and that safety and security as well as stopping of surveillance by the security services were priority issues. Research showed that the majority of people did not know what chapter V was about and were unaware of many of the transitional justice institutions. The Hybrid Court set out in Chapter V of the Peace Agreement was an African solution to an African problem, it was only missing one signature to become operational.

New World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Agenda for Africa moves ahead in Berlin

New World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Agenda for Africa moves ahead in Berlin

BERLIN, Germany, March 13, 2018/ — An African ministerial working meeting conveyed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) during this year’s Berlin International Tourism Fair ITB (8 March) agreed to move ahead with a new ten-point UNWTO Agenda for Africa. The final document will be adopted at the UNWTO Commission meeting for Africa, taking place in Nigeria in June this year.

Against the backdrop of international tourist arrivals expanding 8% in Africa in 2017, thus outgrowing the world average increase in arrivals, tourism is gaining weight as a development opportunity for the whole continent, with its vast diversity of nature, culture and wildlife its greatest vehicle for development.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stressed that “tourism has huge potential to generate lasting development opportunities in Africa if we manage it in the right way, which is economic, social and environmental sustainability”.

The participants from 17 countries, including 14 ministers, supported a coordinated approach to seizing the continent’s potential for tourism, a sector that last year attracted more than 62 million international visitors. Issues on the UNWTO Agenda for Africa include, among others, connectivity, the image and brand of Africa, poverty alleviation, climate change, education and skills development, and financing. Delegates underscored the importance of educating other economic sectors on the broad impact of tourism for the benefit of societies and its people, and promoting tourism as a priority in national agendas.

The detailed, four-year UNWTO Agenda for Africa will be approved at the upcoming 61st Regional Commission for Africa – UNWTO’s annual gathering of all its member countries of the continent – in the Nigerian capital of Abuja (4-6 June).

The following countries were represented at the meeting at ITB: Angola, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Conflicts and weather patterns strain food security

Conflicts and weather patterns strain food security

ROME, Italy, March 5, 2018/ — High levels of food insecurity persist in the world, due largely to conflicts and to adverse climatic shocks that are taking a toll, particularly in East African and Near East countries, where large numbers of people continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance, a new FAO report notes.

Some 37 countries are in need of external assistance for food, unchanged from three months ago, according to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report issued today.

Civil war and insecurity are direct reasons for high hunger rates in 16 of those countries, ranging from Burundi to Yemen. Conflict is displacing millions of people, hampering agricultural activities and, in many cases, also driving basic food prices up sharply, the report notes. Inflation in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2017 to a 42 percent annual rate. Violence has disrupted traditional trade routes around the Sahel, driving up prices, while food shortages are reported around southern and eastern Libya.

Meanwhile, inadequate and erratic rainfall poses a growing threat to food security in Southern Africa as well as in Eastern Africa, where many rural households have suffered from four consecutive drought-affected agricultural seasons.

Dry weather impacts East Africa

The overall cereal output rebounded in Africa in 2017, mostly due to strong gains in Southern Africa following the sharply reduced harvest in 2016.

Cereal production in East Africa, however, saw a 7.2 percent drop, leading to increased stress in various countries. Recently-concluded harvests of secondary season cereal crops are forecast to be below average in southeastern Kenya, northeastern Tanzania and southern Somalia, the report warns.

Aggregate cereal production from Somalia’s “deyr” rainy season is estimated to be 20 percent below average as seasonal rains had a late start and an early cessation. A similar pattern in rainfall and yields was observed in northeastern Tanzania. South Sudan’s cereal output from the 2017 planting seasons is estimated to be the smallest since the conflict started at the end of 2013.

Drought conditions in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia have eased, but not enough to fully offset accumulated deficits in soil moisture. Pasture availability is still below average and livestock body conditions are generally poor. In Kenya, seasonal rainfall was up to 80 percent below average levels, warranting close monitoring of rangeland conditions in eastern areas of the country.

Prices of staple cereals are also high in Ethiopia and the Sudan, where retail prices of sorghum, millet and wheat have doubled since last October in the majority of local markets. The price jump was triggered by the removal of government wheat subsidies, which increased demand for substitute cereals, and by weakening currencies.

Unfavourable seasonal rains in southern Madagascar are expected to result in a further drop in crop yields in 2018, which, coupled with historically high prices of rice, should put additional stress to food security conditions especially in southern areas.

Elsewhere, in Southern Africa, production is expected to fall from the record highs of 2017, heightening concerns about food security, which FAO flagged in a Special Alert issued last week.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Profiling Francophone West Africa as the leader in intra-regional trade

Profiling Francophone West Africa as the leader in intra-regional trade

LOME, Togo, March 5, 2018/ — Francophone West Africa leads in intra-regional trade with trade hotspots around Dakar, Abidjan, Cotonou and Lomé, according to analysis by Ecobank’s research team in its new website, AfricaFICC.

The team has updated Ecobank’s flagship Africa Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Guidebook (FICC) and made it available as an online resource: The website provides key facts for businesses and investors on the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa and the key sectors of activity.

The first regional section of the website to go live is Francophone West Africa, one of the most diverse regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Stretching from Senegal and Cape Verde in the West to Niger 2,000 miles away in the East, Francophone West Africa covers nine countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Together they make up the Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (UEMOA). The website gives a country-by-country analysis of each country, with an economic outlook, details on the FX, FI and banking sectors, and overview of the mineral, energy and soft commodity sectors, as well as key trade flows.

Data for Francophone West Africa show that, despite geographical differences, the region is one of the best integrated economic and monetary zones in Africa, bolstered by the shared currency (the CFA franc), the common legal system (OHADA) and the French language which has fostered economic integration and intra-regional trade.

Key factors to consider include:

  • The region’s economy is driven by agriculture, mining, hydrocarbons, trade and financial services, and is home to the world’s largest producer of cocoa (Côte d’Ivoire) and Africa’s largest regional producers of cotton and palm oil.
  • Abidjan, Dakar, Cotonou and Lomé are key trade hubs for trade, acting as conduits for the import and export of goods and services, both to the international market and to sub-regional markets.
  • Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal account for more than half the block’s GDP and trade flows, acting as vital lifelines for their landlocked neighbours, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Benin and Togo are also major re-export hubs for capital & consumer goods and food, with large informal volumes not being captured by official data.
  • Côte d’Ivoire has the largest banking sector in UEMOA, followed by Senegal. Both countries are emerging as the key Fintech innovation hubs in Francophone Africa.

“Many businesses and investors struggle to find good and reliable economic data about Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Edward George, Ecobank’s Head of Group Research.

“Our new Africa FICC website offers a one-stop shop, with all the key economic, currency, banking, commodity and trade data that those working or investing in Sub-Saharan Africa need at their fingertips,” he said.

“Ecobank understands regional and local business customs, regulations and country-specific risks better than any other bank in Africa because we operate on the ground in 33 markets. This data will help us and our clients in making investment and other financial decisions as part of our seamless service,” said Charles Daboiko, Group Head for Francophone West Africa.

Country guides for the other regions of Sub-Saharan Africa – Anglophone West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa & Southern Africa – will go live over the coming month.

Country guides from other regions of sub-Saharan Africa – English-speaking West Africa, Central Africa, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa – will be posted online in the coming months.

Appendix 1: FICC facts and figures

• Benin is one of smallest countries in West Africa.
• It is West Africa’s third-largest cotton producer, with estimated output of 150,000 tonnes of cotton lint in 2016/17 – Benin’s most valuable export, worth US$187mn in 2016, with most exports going to India, Malaysia, Bangladesh and China for spinning and textiles.
• Benin is a major re-export hub, serving as a key informal conduit for capital and consumer goods going into and out of its eastern neighbour, Nigeria.

Burkina Faso
• Burkina Faso has recently emerged as West Africa’s third largest producer of gold (after Ghana and Mali), with estimated output of 45 tonnes in 2017 and is now its most valuable export, worth US$1.6bn in 2016. Thanks to major investment production of gold is expanding, along with other minerals such as zinc (169,000 tonnes produced in 2016) and lead (2,000 tonnes).
• Burkina Faso is West Africa’s leading cotton producer, with estimated output of 283,000 tonnes of cotton lint in 2016/17 which totalled US$423mn in 2016. It is also a significant producer of sesame (95,000 tonnes in 2017) and cashew nuts (86,000 tonnes), all exported raw to world markets.

Côte d’Ivoire 
• One of Sub-Saharan Africa’s leading soft commodity exporters, accounting for 14.2% of the total in 2016. Cocoa and cocoa products were the largest export, totalling US$5.7 bn.
• The world’s leading producer of cocoa, with record output of 2.01mn tonnes in 2016/17 (October-September), 42.8% of world output.
• Africa’s largest producer of natural rubber, with estimated output of 326,101 tonnes in 2015, most of which was exported to world markets.

Cape Verde
• An archipelago with the region’s smallest population of just over half a million people.
• With limited land and water resources, Cape Verde does not produce agricultural commodities for export and the country remains heavily dependent on food imports to meet domestic needs.

• Guinea Bissau is Africa’s third largest producer of cashew nuts, with estimated output of 200,000 tonnes of raw cashews (RCN) in 2017, around 8% of world production.

• Mali is the third largest producer of gold in Sub-Saharan Africa, Gold, with an estimated output of 63 tonnes in 2016 and production set to rise, is Mali’s most valuable commodity export worth US$2bn in 2016, and and makes up a quarter of government revenues. The government hopes to raise total production to over 100 tonnes in the near term.
• Mali is West Africa’s second largest cotton producer after Burkina Faso. Run by a state monopoly, Mali’s cotton production has risen steadily since 2013/14, reaching a record 266,000 tonnes of cotton lint in 2016/17, worth US$266mn in exports. Output forecast to grow further to 300,000 tonnes in 2017/18, thereby making Mali Africa’s largest cotton grower; Malian cotton fibre trades at a slight premium to Burkinabè fibre, owing to its longer staple length and reliable deliveries.
• In 2016 Mali exported US$228mn worth of live animals to neighbouring countries (mostly cows, sheep and goats)

• Niger is Africa’s largest producer of uranium, with estimated output of 2,904 tonnes in 2016, worth US$299mn, 93% of which is exported to France as fuel and the balance to the USA;
• Niger became an oil producer in 2011 when production started at the Agadem block: output has averaged 20,000 bpd; but production is set to rise following the award of a second oil licence in November 2013;
• Niger is a major re-exporter of food to neighbouring countries; in 2016 it exported US$134mn of rice, US$132mn of palm oil and US$31mn of pasta.

• Senegal has the second largest banking sector in the UEMOA, after Côte d’Ivoire.
• Senegal’s banking sector is loan-driven, with loans and advances accounting for more than half of total assets and the wholesale lending activities – primarily to SMEs and local and multinational corporates – the main growth driver.
• Senegal’s mining sector is focused on gold, phosphates and cement production, with an estimated 10 tonnes of gold produced in 2016, all for export. New investment aims to increase annual production to more than 30 tonnes by 2022.
• Estimated output of cement was 2.9 million tonnes in 2016, both for domestic consumption and for export to the sub-region, and output of phosphate rock was 473,000 tonnes in 2016; Senegal is a hub for processing this into phosphoric acid, the key ingredient in fertiliser.
• Senegal has a dynamic horticultural goods sector which is seeking to challenge the dominance of Kenya and Ethiopia for market share of the EU’s organic fruit and vegetable market.

• Togo is a major trade hub for the West African region.
• Phosphate is Togo’s most valuable mineral export, representing up to 11% of foreign exchange earnings; a total of 846,091 tonnes was exported in 2016, most of which went to India and Canada
• Togo is a major exporter of cement (US$137mn in 2016), cotton (US$53mn) and phosphate rock (US$81mn), most of which is produced in Togo; it is also a re-exporter of imported goods including plastics (worth US$95mn), vehicles and machinery (US$76mn), cosmetics (US$49mn), with the majority going to neighbouring Ghana and Nigeria.


About Ecobank
Incorporated in Lomé, Togo in 1988, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (‘ETI’)  is the parent company of the leading independent pan-African banking group, Ecobank. It currently has a presence in 36 African countries, namely: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Democratic Republic), Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Group employs over 17,000 people in 40 different countries in over 1,200 branches and offices. Ecobank is a full-service bank providing wholesale, retail, investment and transaction banking services and products to governments, financial institutions, multinationals, international organisations, medium, small and micro businesses and individuals.