The growing potential of the UEMOA food economy
The food sector, which comprises agriculture, food processing, food marketing and food-away-from-home, is a key pillar of all eight UEMOA economies. In 2020, the sector’s value is estimated at USD 43 billion or 30% of the Union’s GDP. By 2030, the UEMOA food economy is expected to more than double to reach USD 92 billion or 34% of the Union’s GDP. This unprecedented expansion occurs in a context of rapid urban development. To date, 42 million people or 38% of the UEMOA population lives in cities where almost all food is bought on the market. Urban consumers dedicate a greater proportion of their food expenses to perishable and processed foodstuffs. They are more attentive to quality and prefer less time-intensive food preparation. At the same time, increasingly diversified rural economies and the spread of urban products and lifestyles mean that the share of the rural food supply from markets is also growing. Rising domestic demand fosters the development of regional value chains, in which the off-farm segments are growing rapidly. As a result, the share of agriculture within the food economy is gradually declining. The diversification of the off-farm segments opens up new opportunities for value creation and intra‑regional trade within the UEMOA area and the broader region. This context is favourable to agro-food entrepreneurs who reap the benefits of an enormous domestic food market. The job creation potential is tremendous. Some 35 million UEMOA citizens (or 66% of the labour force) currently work in the food economy. Off-farm segments are particularly important in providing job opportunities for women; as much as 68% of employees in these segments are women. The food economy presents large and untapped employment potential that will continue to grow with population growth, urbanisation and income growth.