Cooperation with China instrumental in Africa’s agriculture development: former Ethiopian PM

KIGALI, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) — Cooperation with China has been “very instrumental” in agriculture development and transformation in Africa, former prime minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn has said.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Tuesday in the Rwandan capital city Kigali, Desalegn said Africa’s transformation is focusing on moving its agriculture from subsistence to commercial, which means producing a surplus for the markets and making agriculture become business.

The former Ethipian PM is now board chair of the Africa-based agriculture institution, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is in Rwanda for the launch of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2020 Summit, slated for September next year.

Agricultural transformation in Africa also means supplying the necessary inputs to the next stage of development that is agro-processing and agriculture-based industrialization, he explained, noting that the transformation is to have a modern agriculture system using the current technologies especially digital technologies that help to transform the whole system in agriculture production and engage most of African young people who are jobless.

“Food security, nutrition security and producing a surplus for markets is all about agriculture transformation.” he said.

After Ethiopia started agriculture transformation, it brought in experts from China, who have helped the eastern African country develop its agriculture extension systems, said Desalegn.

Chinese experts also trained Ethiopia’s agriculture extension agents in a huge number and Ethiopian experts learned from Chinese experts, he said.

These have helped transform Ethiopia’s agriculture extension system and the two countries also have joint research to get more knowledge and practice transfer into Ethiopia, he added.

According to him, Ethiopia benefited from China through the transfer of technologies, and joint research allows Ethiopia-based and Africa-based seeds to be improved into high productive seeds.

Ethiopia also gets financial support from China both in terms of the soft loan and free grants that helped the country to move forward, he said, noting that Ethiopia is the best example of China’s role in Africa’s agricultural development and transformation.

Desalegn said China, which has transformed a large number of its agricultural population within a short period, is a good example for Africa to transform agriculture and achieve zero hunger, however, Africa shall not copy from China.

Africa has to apply and adapt basic principles and methodologies used in China to its own conditions, he said.

Desalegn will lead a team of AGRA to attend a China-Africa agriculture forum in southern China province Hainan in December, which he said will give Africa many lessons.

“Such forums are very important to us to work with China. We have South-South cooperation programs. We will work with South-South cooperation programs very well and again we have the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which is a general framework for our work.”

“I think there is huge work we have to do together with the government, private sector and civil society groups,” said Desalegn, who was talking about potential agricultural cooperation between China and Africa.

Rwanda is set to host the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2020 Summit from Sept. 8-11, 2020. The annual summit is designed to energize political will and advance the policies, programs and investments required to achieve an inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation across Africa.

Former prime minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn receives an interview with Xinhua in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda, on Nov. 26, 2019. Cooperation with China has been “very instrumental” in agriculture development and transformation in Africa, former prime minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn has said. (Xinhua/Lyu Tianran)