Yes, agricultural sector can provide jobs for youth, women and ensure food self-reliance
The AFDB vice-president for agriculture, human and social development spoke to VICTOR KIPROP on Africa’s food situation
Why does Africa spend $35 billion on food imports, yet it has the largest unused agricultural land in the world and a large pool of labour?
Africa’s food problem is the low productivity and lost opportunity by exporting basic, primary products and buying back more processed products at a higher cost. Also, about 12 million young people come into the workforce for the only three million jobs that are available, but this situation can be changed and is already changing.
AFDB and other like-minded institutions should work with governments to train the young graduates on how to become the next generation of agri-preneurs. Youths should come up with businesses that not only thrive, but also hire young people. Agriculture is key to Africa because of the huge opportunity it presents. It employs 60-80 per cent of Africans depending on which country you look at, and by 2030, it will be a $1 trillion business every year.
For a continent that is struggling with high food imports, youth unemployment and relatively low revenues in some countries, this is a massive opportunity. If farmers and businesses can increase food productivity and move up the value chain to sell, not just basic products, but high value-added products, Africa can feed itself and the world.
Africa’s growing population has been described as both a challenge and an opportunity. How can the continent leverage this population to be food secure?
Rising populations and urbanisation are phenomena all over Africa and the key to feeding this growing population is increased investment. Africa will need $30 to $40 billion to invest in agriculture every year to develop it and create the muchneeded productivity leap. However, governments cannot do this alone. Private sector involvement is required to make this sustainable.
One resolution of the 2003 Maputo Declaration was raising budgetary allocations to agriculture to 10 per cent, yet many African countries still allocate less than eight per cent. Why?
It is important to set targets and meet them, but we also need to understand that governments have competing needs from different key sectors that require equal attention. More important than the amount allocated is how this money is spent and the business environment in general. If the business environment is not favourable then no volume of investment will make much difference.
Women make up more than a half of Africa’s farmers. However, credit remains largely collateralised, locking out a majority of them. What is being done to plug these financing gaps?
This issue deeply concerns us at AFDB. We are working on the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa that will unlock $3 billion for women-led small and micro enterprises, primarily in agriculture. We are training women on how develop business plans, and the lending institutions on the importance of lending to women. We are also working with governments to fix the policies that hinder women from creating thriving businesses.
This year’s African Green Revolution Forum, like the previous editions, attracted huge commitments from governments and NGOS. But critics argue that most of these commitments are never matched with implementation and, as a result, there is not much to show from previous investments. Your thoughts?
People make pronouncements that are sometimes hard to follow through. We need to change this mindset. Any commitment need to be linked to opportunity. The commitments have to be about creating the right environment to ensure the private sector thrives. We need to move from taking up agriculture as a way of life and start thinking of it as a business.
The Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017 forecasts that Africa’s food market could be worth $1 trillion annually by 2030, from the current $300 billion. What should Africa do to achieve this?
Considering Africa’s growing population, it is evident that we need a much bigger market. It is a $1 trillion opportunity because it is a $1 trillion need. This requires Africa to ensure it puts in place the right business environment to stop being a net food importer.
What is the role of technology in this?
Technology is important. The best thing about it is that it is not a question of inventing in anything new but getting the right adapted technologies available to African farmers. With this, we can expect an explosion in productivity that will help Africa get ahead of the curve.
Where does Africa’s true potential lie?
Its people. Africa has a very young population which if trained correctly could turn the continent’s fortunes. There is potential for a demographic dividend in Africa because of the big hump of young people coming into the workforce. The alternative is demographic disaster and we just can’t allow that to happen.