Publisher’s Note – Time To Seize The Day
For Africa, the time has come to seize the day and harness the lush opportunities oﬀered by a rapidly-growing food market the worth of which is estimated at $1trillion annually by 2030, according to a recently released Africa Agriculture Status Report.
Beyond rhetoric, businesses, governments and indeed, every stake- holder, now need to rise firmly and stoke the fire of food imports substitution with high-value home-made food. This is the main conclusion from the latest report which sees agriculture unleashing a quiet revolution in Africa if properly managed.
It is important, however, to understand that the envisaged revolution will not happen until there is a balanced focus on SMEs and smallholder farmers, with deliberate policy support to creating the high-productivity jobs and sustainable economic growth that have eluded the continent aimed to liberate it from dependence on mineral deposits and an accretion towards urbanisation.
Research shows that smart investments in the food system can change an unpleasant narrative in the continent where most jobs have been created over the years in lower paid, less productive services rather than in industry. It is disgusting that more than half of the continent’s GDP is generated by the services sector while 37 per cent of the population now live in urban centres.
Dr Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which commissioned the study, says: “Africa has the latent natural resources, skills, human and land capacity to tip the balance of payments and move from importer to exporter by eating food made in Africa. This report shows us that agriculture involving an inclusive trans- formation that goes beyond the farm to agribusinesses will be Africa’s surest and fastest path to that new level of prosperity.” It’s the auspicious time for the continent to reflect on this and make a diﬀerence.
Governments, investors and other core stakeholders need to embrace the view expressed by experts that the continent must be amenable to an inclusive approach that discreetly weaves numerous small farms to agribusinesses, creating extended food supply chains and employment opportunities for millions, including those that will transition from farming, if it must succeed.
The lesson in this is that emphasis needs to be shrewdly and tactically shifted away from moving to large-scale commercial farming and food processing, a model that employs relatively few people and requires high levels of capital.
Not only should Africa now rise to the opportunities highlighted in the report and feed itself with food that meets the growing demand of the continent’s aﬄuent, fast-growing urban populations looking for high-value processed and pre-cooked foods, it must also embrace the advocacy that this opportunity should be met by the continent’s existing smallholder farmers who are still struggling for survival while a significant part of this growing demand for its food is currently met by imports worth $35billion per annum and projected to cost $110billion by 2025. The situation can be reversed if Africa decides without further delay to dilate the productivity and global competitiveness curves of its agribusiness and agriculture sectors.
The private sector, in particular, holds the key to the transformation of the food system, according to analysts, and must therefore, mobilise and harness resources to translate into more tangible and evidence-led narratives, the ‘impressive value addition and employment being created by SMEs along value chains in the form of increased agricultural trade, farm servicing, agro processing, urban retailing and food services, as well as the increasing role in the food value chain in many regions,’ by large agribusinesses like seed companies, agro processors and supermarkets, as observed by Peter Hazell, the technical director of the report. Carpe Diem. Seize the day.
Publisher: Carolyn Isaac