Agriculture: Africa’s hidden treasure

LAGOS — Despite the current low productivity in Africa’s agricultural sector, the World Bank believes the sector, which already employs about 70 percent of the continent’s people, has great future prospects.
The global financial institution recently said agribusiness in Africa could be valued at US$1 trillion (M10.7 trillion) in the next 16 years. The sector’s ability to empower the economies of many countries on the continent, advance food security and create jobs is palpable.

Agricultural performance has improved since 2000, but growth is not yet fast enough. Agricultural GDP growth in sub Saharan Africa has accelerated from 2.3 percent per year in the 1980s to 3.8 percent per year from 2000 to 2005.

Growth has been mostly based on area expansion, but land is scarce and many countries are facing limits to further expansion. Land and agricultural productivity must increase because African farm yields are among the lowest in the world.
Higher and sustained growth will require attention to five core areas of public action:

  •  Facilitating agricultural markets and trade;
  • Improving agricultural productivity;
  • Investing in public infrastructure for agricultural growth
  • Reducing rural vulnerability and insecurity; and
  • Improving agricultural policy and institutions.

According to a campaign known as “Do Agric, It Pays”, research has indicated that in sub-Saharan Africa, the advances in the sector have the potential to reduce poverty 11 times more than other economic sectors.
Currently, the sector accounts for 25 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product, the World Bank says.
“Investing in agriculture now could help lift tens of millions of people out of poverty by 2024,” the campaign believes.

These comments come at a time when the African Union (AU) celebrates the Year of Agriculture and Food Security this year. At the AU conference next month, African heads will have a moment to assess and refresh the Maputo Declaration, and make new policy commitments for the next decade of African agriculture.

The Maputo Declaration refers to a summit held in Maputo in 2003 where African heads of state committed to back up agriculture in all forms.
At the time, they committed to allot about 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and endeavour to achieve at least six percent agricultural growth annually.
— Ventures Africa

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