Build­ing re­silience to cli­mate risks in Africa’s agri­cul­ture

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, African Risk Ca­pac­ity, Mo­hamed Beav­ogui

Agri­cul­ture rep­re­sents tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties for African economies. The sec­tor con­trib­uted more than $100 bil­lion to Africa’s GDP in 2016. But much of that po­ten­tial could be re­alised if there are ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions ad­dress­ing the fac­tors that drive the un­der­per­for­mance trend in the sec­tor.

Over 60 per­cent of the Sub-Sa­ha­ran African population prac­tises agri­cul­ture in ru­ral ar­eas, pro­duc­ing 60 – 70 per­cent of food con­sumed. The agri­cul­tural sec­tor con­trib­utes to 70 per­cent of GDP in the re­gion. But his­tor­i­cally, low hu­man cap­i­tal, in­ad­e­quate in­vest­ment, ad­verse weather con­di­tions and lit­tle-ef­fec­tive pol­icy sup­port have con­sti­tuted the per­fect storm for the low pro­duc­tiv­ity of Africa’s agri­cul­ture.

The small­holder farm­ers that dom­i­nate the con­ti­nent’s farm as­sets are poor, for­mally un­e­d­u­cated and un­able to ac­cess fi­nance and mar­kets. Whereas there have been flur­ries of na­tional and re­gional poli­cies aimed at boost­ing Africa’s agri­cul­ture, de­liv­ery on com­mit­ments have been weak, not least because of the lim­i­ta­tions of avail­able bud­gets amidst com­pet­ing needs. Only a hand­ful of countries have been able to in­vest 10 per­cent of their bud­gets on agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment as stip­u­lated in the Ma­puto Dec­la­ra­tion on Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity.

The rea­sons to find ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions to Africa’s agri­cul­tural chal­lenges are com­pelling. The most im­por­tant rea­son is that the prob­lems are solv­able. The con­ti­nent holds more than half the re­serves of the world’s un­cul­ti­vated arable land. With the world’s population on course to rise to 9 bil­lion by 2050, Africa holds the key to global food se­cu­rity. This also un­der­lines the huge for­eign ex­change rev­enue po­ten­tials of our agri­cul­ture.

In the mean­time, how­ever, Africa’s agri­cul­ture has been syn­ony­mous with poverty. Our agrar­ian com­mu­ni­ties are the frontiers of un­der-de­vel­op­ment, where trans­port in­fras­truc­ture and elec­tric­ity sup­ply are nearly non-ex­is­tent; where dis­ease bur­dens are high; and where ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion is abysmal. To make ap­pre­cia­ble de­vel­op­ment progress in Africa, there­fore, is to lift labour providers in agri­cul­ture out of poverty and suc­cess­fully trans­form the agri­cul­ture value-chain to sus­tain­able busi­nesses.

The road to sus­tain­able progress is long. Un­for­tu­nately, there has been a grow­ing threat to sus­tain­able progress in Africa’s agri­cul­ture, and de­vel­op­ment, more gen­er­ally. This threat is cli­mate change. Agri­cul­ture rep­re­sents the gate­way for the more en­demic and sus­tained im­pact of cli­mate change in Africa. Based on the sheer number of labour em­ployed in the

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