This Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) supports the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Strategic Plan by engaging with international institutions and member countries to strengthen the rules-based trading system. Specifically, this NOFO will support the efforts of African Regional Economic Communities (RECs), beginning with the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) in establishing or supporting a network of food safety actors in the region, as well as provide technical support to drive harmonization and convergence of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards based on science and aligned with Codex Alimentarius. This project will build upon and enhance the partnership between USDA and ECOWAS, as well as other RECs, to advance SPS capacity building as part of African Member States’ commitments to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
While there is demonstrated political will to expand intra-regional agricultural trade, African countries face several challenges to achieve this objective. Significant progress is being made towards achieving regional integration which has contributed to reductions in tariffs. However, the application of non-tariff measures (NTMs), such as SPS measures remain an impediment to effective trade and to meeting ratified countries’ obligation under the World Trade Organization (WTO) SPS agreement. These SPS measures are the foundation for safe trade, as they have the critical function of protecting countries from risks to public health, and to animal and plant life and health. Weak capacities to enforce SPS measures can result in a country’s exclusion from key markets, and poorly applied procedures can result in unnecessary costs, creating inefficiencies in the trading system. Reducing these bottlenecks is an important aspect of trade facilitation.
The AfCFTA will go into effect later this year to create the largest free trade block in the world consisting of 54 nations. Implementation of Annex 7 on SPS of the AfCFTA highlights the pressing need to support regional SPS strengthening activities for African countries to meet their obligations and realize the economic benefits of the agreement. The proposal is to assist Regional Economic Communities and their Members States to strengthen common national legislation and regulations that are based on science and international standards to facilitate the trade in agricultural products.
USDA/FAS is seeking partners with whom to collaborate towards the support of RECs in the implementation of concrete capacity building projects and programs, at both regional and national levels, and encouraging Member States to: adopt international standards, strengthen collaboration, harmonize SPS standards, and help the continent achieve trade and development goals under the Malabo Declaration and the AfCFTA. The project should define alignment with the World Trade Organization SPS Agreement and the International Standard Setting Bodies (ISSB): Codex, OIE and IPPC.
In addition, the project should seek to complement and strengthen linkages to other regional efforts to advance food safety, such as laboratory capacity building, integrated data collection platforms and high-level dialogue. Food testing laboratories are a critical element of the food safety system in helping both government and industry verify food contaminants. Further, the lack of analytical capacity prevents health authorities from making informed policy decisions based on risk. Finally, marshaling of political will require strong communication and advocacy at all levels from national to continental with decision-makers to ensure that food safety modernization linkages with trade and development are clear and investments in both human and financial resources are prioritized.