Representatives of 16 agro-processing companies from America have begun a meeting in Accra to explore trade and investment opportunities in West and Central Africa as well as meet with more than 100 African agribusiness representatives from the region.
The US Agribusiness and Trade and Investment Mission, the first of its kind to the region, would also allow participants to engage in one-to-one discussions in the areas of horticultural products, sea food, bio-fuel, poultry and meat products among others.
Speaking at the forum, Ms Pamela Bridgewater, the US Ambassador, said West and Central Africa offered excellent market opportunities for American trade and investment while the US provided excellent market for African products.
She said the private sector was the engine for economic growth, especially trade and investment, and the US government was ready to facilitate and support these initiatives in collaboration with West and Central African partners.
Ms Constance Jackson, Associate Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, said West and Central Africa had great potential for agribusiness growth and increased agricultural trade and investment partnerships.
Trade between the United States and West and Central African countries increased in 2007 by nearly 25 per cent to more than 1.22 billion dollars. "Over the next few days, US and West and Central African companies will learn about each country's trade opportunities, impediments, business practices, and government programmes," she said.
Ms Jackson encouraged the US and African company representatives to take advantage of the unique opportunity to expand trade and investment partnerships. "Our goal is to encourage food and agribusiness growth and private sector linkages."
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, President of the ECOWAS Commission, said there was the urgent need to create a platform for the total growth of the agricultural sector because of its strategic importance to the economy of most countries.
"As a region, we must endeavour to produce more to feed ourselves, provide new materials for our local industries and engage in value-added processing for export," he said. He stressed the need to remove barriers to trade among the countries in the region to step up intra-regional trade.
There is also the need to work with the partners such as the US to remove supply-side constraints to expand agricultural exports, address low production capacity, poor infrastructure, meeting standards and adopting modern techniques among others.
Mr J.H. Mensah, Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission, said the agricultural sector in Africa needed drastic technological transformation to stimulate increased production. However, he said, this did not call for wholesale importation of agricultural technology.