Boosting African agriculture could help African farmers earn tens of billions of dollars more each year, marking critical economic and social investments into the continent’s future, panellists said during a discussion of this year’s Africa Progress Report, Grain, Fish, Money.
The panel discussion, which took place at the African Development Bank annual meetings in Kigali, included leaders from the African Development Bank, Nigerian and Rwandan governments, the private sector, and the Africa Progress Panel, who all agreed that Africa had missed a major commercial opportunity when it imported US$35 billion of food in 2011.
“For me it makes absolutely no sense that Africa is spending 35 billion dollars importing food,” said Nigeria’s agriculture minister, Dr. Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina.
“We have the land, we have cheap labour, we have rainfall, we have great sunshine. You throw anything up in Africa, before it hits the ground, it grows,” he told the audience which included representatives from government, media, business, and civil society.
Agricultural productivity could easily double in five years. Indeed, Africa could feed not just itself but other global regions too, helping to feed growing global demand for food expected to double by 2050, the United Nations says.
Boosting Africa’s agricultural productivity will require better infrastructure, broader access to financial services, and freer intra-African trade, the Africa Progress Report finds.
Former Nigerian President and Member of the Africa Progress Panel, Olusegun Obasanjo recounted a visit to Guinea-Bissau with Ghanaian President John Kufuor. “As we were about to land in Guinea Bissau, we saw green and water everywhere. And my brother turned to me. He said, ‘Look, this country should not be poor!’ I said ‘My dear brother, tell me which country in Africa should be poor. Tell me which country in Africa should be poor!’ Poverty is the choice of our leaders,” he said.
Agriculture and fisheries will also be critical to reducing poverty and inequality in Africa, because two thirds of Africans depend on these sectors for their livelihoods, the audience heard.
“Unless we make agriculture bigger, better and a business, we won’t tackle the issue of jobs and unemployment in Africa. So agriculture has to be core, central to whatever we discuss in terms of African development,” Viswanathan Shankar, Standard Chartered Bank’s Group Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Americas, told the audience.
Officials and journalists say the Africa Progress Report has become an influential report.
“The report you gave last year on natural resources was a game-changer. It has influenced the whole look at those things. This report is, frankly, I’m not overusing the word, another very influential report, which will go very far,” Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, said.
Photo credit: Riccardo Gangale / Africa Progress Panel (2014)