Africa's Untapped Animal Potential

Published on 24th May 2010

Economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa are long-term development objectives. The increasing population pressure, urbanization and rising incomes necessitate increased crops and livestock production to meet domestic and external demands.  These factors are resulting in the increasing use of fragile marginal lands for crop production thus reducing the available land mass for extensive pastoral production.

The increasingly sedentary lifestyles of traditional pastoralist communities is enhancing the degradation of soils in the marginal lands and threatens the natural resource base for continued crop and livestock production. This is further compounded by inappropriate application of technologies, bad management, recurrent droughts, flooding and insecurity.

All these factors contribute to the poor management of the natural resource base for animal production and will in the long-term undermine the ability of African countries to meet the rising demand for livestock commodities. Climate change is contributing to the deterioration of the natural resource base while at the same time creating conditions for the emergence of new animal diseases and zoonoses and re-emergence of diseases that had previously been contained. 

African governments and institutions will need to devise new ways of facing these challenges in order to realise the potential of the continent’s animal resources in economic development. The prevailing institutional environment in most African countries is not conducive to sustainable livestock production, trade and marketing as a pathway out of poverty. This is mainly as a result of a poor livestock policy environment and the consequent inadequate investment in the livestock sector.  

The need for increased investment in the livestock sector has been recognized at the highest levels of government in Africa. This is exemplified by the commitment undertaken by the Heads of State and Government in Africa through the Sirte declaration of 2006 to enhance investments in the livestock sector to 3% of the national budgets. However, this political commitment has not been supported by appropriate policies to ensure its implementation in most African countries. The lack of appropriate policies in the livestock sector is attributed to inadequate knowledge and awareness on the part of policy makers and other key stakeholders to facilitate the decisions and financial investments necessary for changes in the sector and its institutions. The lack of sufficient data, information and knowledge also denies stakeholders the opportunity for effective evidence-based lobbying and advocacy to influence policies for institutional changes.

The generally weak skill base and institutional capacity at national and regional levels in the policy and strategies arena is reflected in poorly defined policies and existing policies that are not properly implemented with resultant neglect of the livestock sector. Significant gaps in policy exist in many African countries and the poverty eradication potential of livestock will not be fully realized if these are not addressed. Policy reforms also require supporting legislative and regulatory frameworks to enable their effective implementation. There is limited capacity for review and development of appropriate legislations and regulations at the national level. At the regional levels, there is limited capacity of RECs to support Member States in the development of harmonized legislative frameworks to address common problems.

The contribution of the livestock sector to food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth will be improved with renewed commitments from governments and a review of international standard-setting policies, especially where trade and markets are concerned.  If this is done, the potential for Africa’s animal resources is enormous with potential for attracting new markets and trading partners, the in-flow of private investment for new production technologies and the provision of ethically produced and sourced foods to niche markets. Evidence-based policy reforms that have a direct bearing on international and regional trade as well as pro-poor policy interventions are long overdue for supporting the role of Africa’s Animal Resources in economic development and poverty reduction.

In responding to these challenges and opportunities, the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) has developed a new strategic plan covering the period 2010-2014. The plan is based on a critical review of trends, drivers, challenges and opportunities for the African Animal Resource sector. It expresses a comprehensive view on all aspects of animal resources and their role in the development of the AU Member States within the framework of CAADP programmes. AU-IBAR has identified six thematic areas that will guide its focus under the new strategic plan.  These are:

1. Reducing the impact of trans-boundary animal diseases (TADs) and zoonoses on human livelihoods and public health in Africa (TADs and Zoonoses)

2. Enhancing Africa’s capacity to characterize, conserve and sustainably use its animal resources and their resource base (Natural Resources Management)

3. Improving investment opportunities in, and competitiveness of animal resources in Africa (Investment and Competitiveness)

4. Promoting development of standards and regulations and facilitation of compliance (Standards and Regulations)

5. Improving knowledge management in animal resources for informed and timely decision-making  (Knowledge Management)

6. Facilitating development of policies and institutional capacities for improved utilization of animal resources in Africa (Policies and Capacity Building)

This strategic plan marks a paradigm shift for the Bureau and brings with it a commitment that an energetic, innovative and collaborative AU-IBAR will emerge from this endeavour.

By H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime.

Commissioner For Rural Economy And Agriculture,  African Union Commission.

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