Agriculture continues to be the key sector for economic development on the African continent, with the agricultural sector accounting for 60-80% of employment, 15-20% of total exports, and 30- 40% of GDP. Since most households in Africa depend directly on agricultural operations for their livelihoods and food security, sustained agricultural growth is crucial not only for reducing hunger and malnutrition on the continent but also as a key instrument for our socio -economic development in terms of job creation, improved incomes that guarantee economic growth and shared prosperity. Hence the importance of agriculture cannot be overemphasized and it has been established that returns on investment in agriculture are far higher than in any other sector. We are, therefore, pleased to see the private sector demonstrating interest in investing in agriculture because it makes business sense.
In commemoration of the 2014 AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security, the African Union Commission (AUC), the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency together with other Pan African Institutions, carried out broad based consultations with key stakeholders, including AU Member States, producers, women and youth organizations, and development and technical partners across the continent to review, strategies and set goals, actions and targets for the next decade to 2025 as part of Sustaining our CAADP Momentum.
The climax of the 2014 AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security was marked during the Twenty Third Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, from 26 -27 June 2014 during which the Heads of State and Government (HS&G) of the African Union renewed their commitment to CAADP and adopted the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth And Transformation for Shared Prosperity And Improved Livelihoods (Doc. Assembly/AU/2(XXIII). I would like to ensure that all participants here have a copy of this Declaration.
In the Malabo Declaration, African leaders adopted the seven key commitments comprising the AU vision for agricultural transformation in the next decade to 2025 for the Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation (3AGT) focusing on:
(i) Upholding the Principles and Values of the CAADP Process
(ii) Enhancing Investment Finance in Agriculture
(iii) Ending Hunger in Africa by 2025
(iv) Halving Poverty by the year 2025, through Inclusive Agricultural Growth and
(v) Boosting Intra -African Trade in Agricultural commodities and services
(vi) Enhancing Resilience of Livelihoods and Production Systems to Climate Variability and other related risks.
(vii) Commitment to Mutual Accountability to Actions and Results
It is also in the same regard that the AU Assembly tasked the AUC and NEPAD Agency to develop an Implementation Strategy And Roadmap (IS&RM) that facilitates translation of the 2025 vision and goals of Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation into concrete results and impacts, and report to the January 2015 AU Policy Organ Meetings in Addis Ababa for consideration and adoption.
This process is in advanced stages, and it involves the participation of all major stakeholders. As we speak, national level consultations are on-going in AU Member States, some of which you might have already been required to also contribute given the value addition you bring in into this drive.
While we remain determined and focused on the African defined, owned and led vision, we are also cognizant of the fact that the future growth on our continent will be impacted on by external trends such as the global race for commodities , among others. With world food production expected to rise by 40% over the next 30 years, Africa will definitely be an important part of the global solution. This is, therefore, an opportunity that Africa must seize.
Also, the analysis made by FAO has indicated that for the world to meet the needs of 9 billion people in the year 2050, the world needs to invest an additional $83 billion on average annually in developing countries’ agriculture. Based on soaring population rates and rising living standards, food production will need to almost double by 2050 in order to satisfy the global demand. From a market perspective, agribusiness is poised for unparalleled global growth and this merits private sector investment to complement public financing in capturing this opportunity for shared prosperity.
In the same context, we are also aware that by 2050, Africa will be home to one-fifth of the world’s population. Not only does the African continent have the world’s fastest growing population but also has the youngest and we should take advantage of this dividends unleashed by the youth budge. This rapid population growth, coupled with a strong trend towards urbanization, among other mega trends, poses a huge challenge but also an economic opportunity for food security and markets. It calls for modernization and the private sector can play a leading role in this and harness the skills of the youth to drive this.
Once again, considering the recent opportunities realized in the CAADP implementation, with several countries not only having signed Country Compacts but also developed their National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans opening up opportunities in the sector-wide development requiring additional financial investments, we are all convinced that only through creative collaboration and public -private partnerships shall we be able to attract adequate and appropriate investments in the agricultural sector that will lead to contribute to our agenda to create the required wealth for African citizens. That is why we are here together.
However for us to achieve these noble goals, we need to transform the agricultural sector. We need to provide the required resources and support our youth and women in the sector to take advantage of the golden opportunities. It is imperative that we treat agriculture as a viable and profitable business. At the same time we need to change our attitude in the way we take agriculture. It should no more be seen as a profession for the less unfortunate but as a niche for prosperity for all, where, for example, we can produce the food that can save the continent form spending the current US40 billion annually on food imports.
Having realized an increasing number of private sector firms that continued to seek strategic business options to partner with African governments and development partners to sustainably support Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda , there is need to scale up and replicate these efforts in a sustainable and all -inclusive manner. Together we can get there. Ensuring a food and nutrition secure, poverty free Africa is also a sure way of retaining Africa’s dignity and that is one of the aspirations of the founders of the OAU 50 years ago. That is when we can talk of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance.
Hence, the year 2014, the AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security remains an important milestone in our Agricultural transformation and an opportunity to be seized by all partners in our collective resolve to uphold agriculture and food security as a priority for policy, actions and investments to generate concrete results and impacts on the g round.
We need to diversify our capacities by providing the required incentives for our youths to view agriculture as a profitable venture and to make them competitive by building their capacity to enable them access the available investment resources, production capital and markets and be formidable part of the agricultural value chain.
We have also noted in recent times a good number of youths showing willing ness to partner in the various endeavours in the agricultural transformation initiatives. In this regard, we call on our governments once again to continue to create the necessary conducive environment with institutions and policies that foster public private partnership and a level playing field for our youths to continue to engage in this drive.
If we are to take agriculture as a business, then it has to be financed. Unless it is funded to play its role, it will not be able to contribute the much - needed rewards and other multiplier effects on improved food, nutrition, jobs, wealth and social welfare that all citizens of AU Member States are aspiring for. Hence, we must continue to explore catalytic systems of finance and investment options that respond to our local needs, the requirements for our youths and women in general and meet their demands , to energize them further to sustain the momentum for agricultural transformation towards shared prosperity.
Our private sector is very diversified but we do not want to see any more our private sector being characterized by marginalization or fragmentation and its operations being uncoordinated. And, considering that agriculture is multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder collaboration and support remains critical to define the kind of architecture that brings together our private sector in a way that it can coherently engage our governments and partners in the policy and strategic planning processes that also respond to the demands of the transforming sector and modernizing continent.
It is good for Africa that opportunities are created for an organized and functional multi-stakeholder agriculture private sector platform that will champion its cause and will respond in a more proactive, coherent and sustainable way, to the investment opportunities I have just outlined. Also, in recognizing the multi-sectoral and multi -institutional nature of the agriculture sector, we need to accord high priority to the critical role played by our women and youths and support them to unleash their potentials to the fullest in driving the agriculture and agribusiness sector and related industry forward.
As the African Union Commission, we will continue to pursue mutually beneficial long-term relationships that we see building between the private sector and our governments that will be based on mutual understanding of incentives, roles and expectations of the public and private sectors for the benefit of African citizens, first and foremost. We will continue to consolidate our efforts in a way that creates win-win situations for all partners and attain shared objectives.
We will also work with our governments and partners to move beyond fears that the private sector is solely associated with exploitation of situations for profit and that the public sector is viewed as inefficient. We will work to improve trust between public and private sectors by designing transparent partnerships that allow for long-term economic and social value creation with the understanding that the private sector will continue to look at the long-term return on investments and, synergies that would accrue potential benefits for all stakeholders.
By H.E. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace
Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission.