Unveiling the Complexities of African Food Systems

In a captivating exploration of competition dynamics within African food systems, the recent three-part webinar series, hosted by CCRED and the African Food Systems Transformation Collective, delved into the intricate web of challenges and opportunities facing the continent. From barriers to entry for smallholder producers to the impact of corporate mergers on food prices, the series offered profound insights and actionable recommendations. 

Empowering Smallholder Producers 

Seeking to report on key findings on the main barriers and the challenges faced on the ground by small producers, this webinar sought to set out an agenda for resilient inclusive food systems. 

Led by Grace Nsomba from CCRED, the first webinar painted a vivid picture of African food markets grappling with crises exacerbated by climate change and corporate dominance. Through compelling anecdotes from South and East Africa, Grace illuminated how concentration stifles smaller market actors, driving prices up and access down. Those in attendance heard Yohane Kalinde, Community Agribusiness Partners, share inspiring stories of Malawian soybean farmers banding together for better market access, underscoring the power of grassroots organisation. And Korkor Cudjoe from the Graca Machel Trust shed light on the gender disparities plaguing women entrepreneurs, emphasising the transformative impact of access to pricing information. 

Unpacking the Impact of Mergers 

In the second instalment, the discussion considered the role of competition authorities in addressing concentration and market power in food markets in Africa and explained the special project being undertaken by the International Competition Network on competition issues in food and agriculture markets. 

CCRED’s Simon Roberts dissected the repercussions of corporate mergers on food prices, revealing the stark reality of small farmers being squeezed in while consumers pay more. Participant, Willard Mwemba, COMESA Competition Commission, emphasised the need for regional cooperation to counteract dwindling competition and rising costs, urging a holistic approach to enforcement. Adano Wario, representing the Competition Authority of Kenya, echoed these sentiments, highlighting how inflation and external shocks amplify food price spikes, necessitating greater coordination in East Africa. 

Harnessing Competition Reform for Climate Adaptation 

The final convening underscored the urgent need for competition reform as a linchpin of climate adaptation. Speakers, Eleanor Fox and Carin Smaller rallied for systemic change, citing reports that pinpoint concentration as a barrier to solving multiple crises facing the world’s poor. Their call to action resonated, urging enhanced data collection, cross-border cooperation, and donor engagement. Furthermore, Chilufya Sampa echoed these sentiments, emphasising the vital role of capacity building and legal empowerment for African competition authorities. 

In closing, the webinar series not only unveiled the challenges plaguing African food systems but also ignited a spark of hope for transformative change,” said Malik Dasoo, of the African Climate Foundation. By amplifying the voices of smallholder producers, advocating for regulatory reform, and fostering cross-border collaboration, we can pave the way for a more equitable and resilient food future in Africa. 

To view the full recordings of the webinars, click here. 

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