J.van de Gevel/Bioversity International

Exploring Policy Harmonisation in Africa

Policy is the biggest driver of change. In Africa, the challenge is not the absence of relevant policy, but rather in the implementation of policy. And this implementation gap exists because of policy silos. A policy may require the input of different agencies within a government. The problem is that these sectors are not working towards a common goal. They each have their own agendas.

A crucial example is with INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) which are reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). While over 90% of countries in Africa have ratified INDCs, their implementation calls for input from non-environmental ministries such as energy, agriculture, transport, trade, etc. But these ministries do not always have this input prioritised at the same level. For example, while INDCs may call for prioritisation of clean energy, an energy ministry may be prioritising coal or other non-renewable energy sources.

The agriculture sector, which is one of the most important socioeconomic sectors in Africa, provides another example. While climate-smart agriculture policy is an agriculture policy housed in a ministry of agriculture, its implementation requires the input of non-relevant agencies. While climate-smart agriculture is the future, its implementation is blocked by this silo problem. But the question is, how can these silos be bridged?

The answer lies in leveraging ground-level innovations that practically demonstrates the multi-dimensional benefits of this cross-sectorial synchronisation of actions. And in so doing, it optimally meets the sectorial priorities of the ministries involved.

Policy is not always established through top-down approaches. Effective policy is established more through bottom-up approaches, where pockets of success stories from ground actions are leveraged to inform and influence policy.

Ground actors applying climate-smart agriculture techniques such as the use of biofertilizer, minimum tillage, etc., to ensure increased yields of nutrient-rich food, provide much-needed data that can be used to inform national standards to integrate these climate-smart agriculture techniques as tools for achieving food health quality standards. Another example is food safety. Aflatoxins are a major threat to food safety. Solar dryers have been proven capable of effectively, affordably, and efficiently dehydrating agro-produce to below 10% moisture content needed to prevent the growth of aflatoxins. Data shows that the application of such solar dryers reduces aflatoxin incidents by up to 58%. This empirical data provides a basis by which national standards can be created by relevant ministries. This has been done in Uganda and Nigeria.

Another example is job creation across Africa. The African continent needs to create no less than 12 million jobs each year. Implementation of employment policies needs enablers in form of incentives that come from different ministries. For example, the finance ministry may need to put in place fiscal incentives to activate investment in certain sectors that can engage youth in job creation. Energy and transport ministries may need to put in place certain infrastructural incentives to activate optimal job-creating investments. But the question is, how do we know which sectors/sub-sectors to incentivise to have a maximum impact on job creation? This is where empirical data becomes critical.

This is an example of how empirical data can inform policy to create jobs in the agriculture sector. Africa experiences up to $48 billion in annual postharvest losses, while it imports billions worth of food annually. Empirical data from Nigeria, Cameroon, and Uganda, shows that convening agro-value chain actors in local cooperatives can cut their postharvest losses. So the rub is that governments could focus on creating more agricultural cooperatives to increase the profits of local farmers.

It is only through this innovative coherent ground-level policy implementation where synergistic coherence is fostered that we can drive impactful policy at the top.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the authors are associated.