East Meets West: Promoting African Agricultural Integration

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This week I write from Nairobi, Kenya where am I am attending the 10th Annual conference of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRAF) taking place in Kenya. The AGRAF conference which seeks primarily to Champion Africa’s food security and speak to African Agriculture and AGRA is an alliance founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation as well as the Rockefeller foundation all based out of the West, the US to be precise. Kenya for those who are not familiar is East Africa’s largest Economy and the hub for most regional and sometimes continental organizations. It is often referred to as East Africa’s gateway just as Nigeria is labelled for West Africa.

The theme of this year’s summit is Seize The Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation is very apt as it delves into the very heart of our Food security conversation on the continent and  questions our dependence and long term sustainability of fossils fuels to the detriment of Agriculture .This year the forum is focusing on promoting investments, public/private opportunities and policy support for driving the vision contained in the African Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.

In furtherance of this agenda it is important to take a cursory look at Africa’s agribusiness potential as gleaned from African Business Magazine which did an elaborate analysis of the same. Their report from which they culled data from different sources including but not limited to the World Bank, Grow Africa, FAO and farming first just to mention a few, it is right to affirm that Agricultural Production is the most important sector in most African countries averaging 24 per cent of GDP. Selected countries chosen; Kenya-30%, Ethiopia 42 per cent, Tanzania 27 per cent and our own dear Nigeria a paltry 23 per cent. The sector accounts for as much as 70 per cent of total employment in the continent with 85 per cent of Ethiopia’s labour force engaged in Agriculture, Kenya 75 per cent, Tanzania 80 per cent and Nigeria 70 per cent.

In the continent a few shortcomings need to be addressed and quickly too. Africa spends 35 billion dollars on food imports, 75 per cent of Africa’s cultivated soil is degraded and costing them about 10 per cent of their GDP while only five per cent of cultivated land is irrigated compared with say 41 per cent in Asia. Irrigation if properly harnessed could increase African output by up to 50 per cent. Only 16 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s roads are paved and only 25 per cent of rural people have access to market within two hours. We often talk about potentials but the people need to feel this potential translated into action. With 60 per cent of the world’s remaining uncultivated land in Africa, the World Bank estimates that the Agriculture and Agribusiness sectors will become a 1 trillion dollar market by 2030 up from 313 billion in 2010

This perspective provided sets the scene and puts in context the role AGRA and its partners are playing in helping to realize the potential. In its 10 years of existence, AGRA has focused on improving access to inputs, high quality seeds and properly formulated fertilizers mineral and organic which are integral ingredients for the foundation of a successful farm, they have equally trained and certified over 25,000 agro- dealers in technical and business management in 12 countries in Africa, They are helping to change the reality in Agriculture in Africa from farming as a struggle to survive.

The Forum according to the organizers policy document is technically and financially supported by an AGRF Partnership Group that includes: the African Union Commission, the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, the African Development Bank (ADB), the Rockefeller Foundation, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IDRC, YARA International, Groupe  OCP Morocco, Syngenta, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership, GROW AFRICA, AGCO Corporation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA is the implementing partner for the Forum and hosts the Secretariat at its head offices in Nairobi, Kenya.

Over the last decade, they make bold to have laid the foundations for a renaissance in Africa’s agriculture, one powered by the enormous progress increasingly evident in farmers who are gaining more options in the seeds they plant, in the fertilizers they use, and in the markets available to purchase their produce. Agribusinesses are growing through African SME’s from seeds to markets to value addition. So far, it’s just a glimpse of success. But it offers an inspiring new vision of a future in Africa growing ever stronger through farming as a business. This future can be our reality if we act now and seize the moment for African agriculture their words not mine.

In conclusion, the Alliance for a Green revolution(AGRA) affirms that as an alliance they have developed many of the tools and systems required for an African Green Revolution: locally adapted seeds and other technologies for higher yields; new delivery channels; new and growing private seed and fertilizer companies ; dense networks of private agro-dealers; enhanced post-harvest technologies and accessible financing for farmers and businesses; stronger farmer organizations; better markets; a new generation of African agricultural leaders; and improved policy environment that enables the agricultural sector to flourish.

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