This study investigates the political economy aspects of food trade in East Africa, with a focus on political and social interactions in the production and trade of maize and rice. Findings indicate that in spite of the Customs Union Protocol, non-tariff barriers remain a major hindrance to cross-border agriculture trade. Furthermore, policymakers rarely engage non-state actors in policy measures around food staples, which are subject to political influence.
Parts of East Africa have been food insecure for decades worsened by climate shocks and disasters. Food security challenges in East Africa are related to small-scale subsistence production, high dependence on food aid, low level of agricultural production for specific commodities, capacity, and resource degradation. However, the EAC as a region, where some countries are food self-reliant, some self-sufficient, some chronically food insecure, has a potential to produce enough agricultural goods and, through intra-regional trade achieve food security for all East Africans.
The importance of tackling the impacts of climate change on food security cannot be underscored, and here the role that trade can play in redressing these impacts becomes critical. Whether people are to benefit from trade liberalisation depends on the appropriateness of national institutions. The expected results of such trade reforms may not materialise if there are other domestic institutional or physical factors that come in the way such as domestic monopolies, missing rural infrastructure rendering prices uncompetitive, fluctuating applied tariff rates, alterations in prices, other countries’ policies, etc.
This publication examines the political economy aspects of food trade in the EAC region, with a focus on factors that influence decision-making as well as political and social interactions in the production and trade of maize and rice in East Africa. Findings indicate that in spite of the Customs Union Protocol that obliges Partner States to remove all non-tariff barriers, such measures remain a major hindrance to cross-border agriculture trade.
Furthermore, policymakers rarely engage non-state actors in the decisionmaking process of food staples trade policy measures, which are subject to political influence.
The research process commenced with desktop research, outcomes of which were presented at multi-stakeholder meetings in all EAC countries. Thereafter, the study was complemented by field research and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders including government officials, border post operators, farmer associations, business organisations, civil society and the media, among others. Several multi-stakeholder validation workshops were again held at the national and regional levels. These processes have greatly enriched the study with the varied inputs and viewpoints of stakeholders at both the national and regional levels.
This study is part of a larger initiative by CUTS International, Geneva that has been implementing the Promoting Climate Change-Food SecurityTrade Linkages in the East Africa Community (PACT EAC) project over the past two and a half years. Through an integrated set of researchbased advocacy, networking and training activities and by linking grassroots with Geneva, the project seeks to build human and institutional capacity of East African Community (EAC) stakeholders to help them take better advantage of international trade for their growth and development and poverty reduction, particularly in the context of climate change.