Guinea trying out south-south cooperation venture with Tunisia
Trade in Guinea today centres mostly around the export of gold and bauxite, which is used to create aluminum. The country has the world’s largest deposits of the red rock, and aluminum prices are increasing.
But, approximately 85% of Guinea’s population are subsistence agriculturalists, and the country is one of the poorest in the world.
In an effort to expand the country’s income potential in agriculture, a new partnership has formed under a south-south cooperation umbrella, with Tunisia offering learnings from its own boosting of agricultural exports.
“Our project is the first south-south project in Guinea,” said Guinea Technical Cooperation Agency Director General Patrice Camara, who is coordinating the implementation. “The evolution of the project will allow us to open up to the world and attract the interest of other countries for technical cooperation and economic partnership.”
The spark of the project started with a visit by Guinea President Alpha Condé to the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB) in 2017 in which he requested support across many development contexts, including agriculture. That led to the resulting collaboration between the governments of Guinea and Tunisia, together with IsDB, the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa.
The south-south cooperation in this case is via IsDB’s “reverse linkage mechanism”, which aims at enhancing and increasing trade between the 57 Organization of Islamic Cooperation member countries.
ITFC said, “Tunisia was selected to serve Guinea through these mechanisms. Why Tunisia? Because Tunisia is a champion in the value chain for the agricultural sector.”
Tunisia’s success with its date exports will be used as a model, and Guinea is looking to develop its own agricultural sector via a value chain approach.
IsDB’s range of experience with south-south cooperation, or “reverse-linkages”, will be leveraged for this work, including developing the capacity of a pool of resource persons who will use the knowledge and expertise from the Tunisian side and transfer it to their Guinean counterparts.
The Government of Guinea aims to use agriculture as a catalyst for economic growth and to address rural poverty, and its export promotion strategy has identified products with high potential, including mangos and cashews. The new partnership will help Guinea to address its many value chain needs, including reducing post-harvest losses, packaging, adherence to international standards and more.
With agriculture contributing to less than 10% of Guinea’s exports, despite a wealth of arable land and good climactic conditions, there is much room to grow.
“There is a lack of capacity to take full advantage of export opportunities. For example, we have a mango production potential of 200,000 tons, but only export 2,000 tons per year. There is a lack of quality and understanding of market demand,” said Mamadou Condé of the Guinea Export Promotion Agency.
In developing the new partnership, experts from Tunisia analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and constraints of five potential Guinea value chains: mango, pineapple, cashew nut, coffee and banana. Mango and cashew were selected for interventions based on potential for growth and contribution to wealth creation, among other factors.
For mangos, there are issues of fruit flies, and post-harvest losses vary between 60-85% depending on the region. And, there is no organization to coordinate the relationship between farmers, mango processors and exporters.
“In the case of cashew nuts, we are facing a situation where the western zone of the country produces very few nuts of quality while the eastern zone produces a lot of nuts but of poor quality. This situation needs to be rectified,” said Camara.
The production of cashews currently is informal and unorganized, and the country is aiming to increase the amount of trees planted by at least 100,000 hectares.
The new project will address the identified issues in the mango and cashew sectors in part by connecting and training relevant parties across the value chain, from government officials to those working in export development and processing. Both the public and private sector will have access to the expertise and learnings from Tunisian counterparts, including through business-to-business meetings.
“The main challenges are the need for reforms to enable institutions to adapt to the international market and move out of the production of raw products and move upstream in global value chains,” said Camara.
The project will provide two pilot mango drying units, as that little mango drying is currently happening in the country. The units will serve as a training ground so others can master the techniques required.
Sustainability was an issue addressed in the project design, having been organized along individual, organizational and institutional dimensions in order to better ensure long-lasting improvements.
“We want Guinea to have a position in the international market. This will address the national value chain ecosystem, and create synergies between the various components of the value chains,” said ITFC.