By Julia Day

After a simmering row between the US and Kenya at the start of the 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade conference in Nairobi this week, the event has ended with a call for African governments to develop regional trade while taking advantage of assistance from the US.

Earlier this week, Mike Pflanz in The Telegraph, reported that the US ambassador in Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, had angered the country’s prime minister Raila Odinga by criticising Kenya’s lack of “seriousness” in setting up local mechanisms to try suspects from the December 2007 riots.

“Failure by Kenya to take ownership of the process of accountability at all levels will call into serious question whether the political will exists to carry out fundamental reforms,” said Mr Ranneberger.

Mr Odinga retorted: “We don’t need lectures on how to govern ourselves. Lecturing us on issues that deal with governance and transparency is in bad taste.”

But by the time the AGOA talks were wrapped up last night, relations appeared to have thawed somewhat, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declaring: “More and more, the world will look to Africa to be its breadbasket, and I hope that when the world looks … it is Africans and African farmers who will profit from becoming the world’s breadbasket.”

Secretary Clinton made the comments, reported by Charles W Corey, after touring the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) outside Nairobi, remarking: “For the global community, agricultural development could help address some of the most urgent challenges we face -chronic hunger, which afflicts nearly 1 billion people worldwide, including one in three Africans, many of whom are children.”

She added that agriculture will the engine of future growth for Africa.

At the closing of the AGOA conference, according to the Kenya Broadcasting Company, Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka stressed the onus of developing Africa rested with the Africans. He said that increasing intra-state trade, strengthening of regional economic blocs, to tap on the ready market, enhance competition as well as diversify and add value to goods and services, was essential.

“Indeed the need for paradigm shift towards intra-Africa trade cannot be overemphasized considering that trade among Africans remain pitifully dismal despite the huge market. This should prick our collective conscience as governments, policy makers and private sector” Mr. Musyoka said.

“The US has itself recognized this challenge, and is providing crucial assistance to regional blocs for building their capacities for trade. This crucial support should be extended as it is essential for strengthening AGOA as well as Africa’s integration into the global economy” the Vice President added.

However The US Working Group on the Food Crisis used Senator Clinton and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s visit to KARI to raise the question of whether US dollars for food-related aid to Africa are being spent wisely, Kristie Heim writes in the Seattle Times.

“The USAID’s policies toward agriculture in Kenya, stated here, include a public-private partnership with KARI, the Donald Danforth Plant Center and Monsanto to develop genetically engineered sweet potatoes resistant to virus and promote public awareness about the technology in Kenya.

“The coalition called such policies “misguided” and at odds with a report on the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Scienceand Technology for Development (IAASTD),” writes Heim.

STEPS co-director Ian Scoones has written a paper on the IAASTD process, entitled Global Engagements with Global Assessments: The Case of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).