African Agriculture Needs Injection of Vigour
The development and implementation of supportive policies, provision of farming support and the sourcing of markets for produce are some of the ways by which an agricultural revolution can be achieved.
A panel of experts at the 2018 AGRF in Kigali, Rwanda, agreed that the continent was ripe for an economic upturn which is set to be driven by agriculture.
But to achieve this green future, it was insisted, leaders and other stakeholders need to work together to create a conducive environment for agriculture to flourish.
“Farmers know what is good for them. And, therefore, as leaders design policies for the sector, it is important to consult the people who know about agriculture better than anybody else, and those are the farmers”, said Donald Kaberuka, former president of the African Development Bank.
Dr. Frannie Leautier, the founder and managing partner of the Fezembat Group, says that in addition to policy making, it is important to streamline all aspects of production, singling out supply channels as among the areas requiring the most attention.
“Supply logistics are fundamental in agricultural transformation. Technology, and how it interfaces with supply chains needs to be given critical thought even as policies and other infrastructure are being developed.
In relation, Mostafa Terrab, the Chairman and CEO of the OCP Group recommends that fertiliser availability be greatly considered while developing supply chains.
“Fertilisers are important, but we are struggling to reach the Abuja targets of 50kg per hectare because we are using models that are not unique to the countries,” said Terrab.
“It is important that the people tasked with farming sector administration create fertilisers that are specific to their needs, as well as develop tailor-made solutions for availing them to their farmers,” he added.
Citing the example of China, which was on par with Africa in financial stature 40 years ago, but now with almost non-existent poverty levels, Terrab noted that change can only be achieved with commitment from leaders.
“China overcame poverty by setting up beneficial policies that were all inclusive and building good infrastructure across all sectors. Africa can do the same, effectively improving agricultural production while reaching new markets,” he said.
Dr. Leautier adds that it is important for Africa’s leaders and producers to reach out to new markets as one of the ways for ensuring sustainability of business models.
“The poor man’s food has become highly valuable in the world, owing to its previously ignored healthy quality. Kale, for instance, is still regarded as a survival vegetable for Africans while in Europe and America it is used to make expensive juices and salads,” said Leautier.
“These are great markets that should be targeted by African producers.”
The AGRF is a platform that brings some of the world’s leaders and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector for discussions on the state of the industry.
Among the conceptualists of the Forum was former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who passed away in late August.
And at the Kigali session, now on its eighth production, it was greatly agreed that there no discussion on the state of African agriculture for the past 15 years would be possible without reflecting on the legacy of Kofi Annan.
In the words of Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, “Secretary General Annan had the most extraordinary moral leadership and respect for every human being.”
Dr. Shah continued: “The way he valued everyone was so powerful that everybody who met him felt it immediately.”
These sentiments were quickly echoed by the Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, who called Mr. Annan “a great diplomat of Africa.”
Reflecting on what has been achieved in realising Mr. Annan’s vision for AGRA of lifting up those who are vulnerable, both men had positives to report.
Dr. Shah reminded the audience of the progress reflected in the 2017 Biennial Review, which showed 10 nations directing 10 percent or more of public expenditure to agriculture, with 15 more on way, and 19 having achieved a six percent agricultural GDP growth.