Making Agriculture Work for Africa

Published on 11th November 2014

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.

This article has been read 2,651 times