Previous attempts to reform the situation through incremental poverty reduction backed by foreign aid have had limited success in addressing the underlying structural limitations facing most African economies. Policy advice to African governments, comes directly from bilateral and multilateral donors. The advice tends to reflect the donors’ priorities and assumptions while lacking a richer understanding of the local context. Even when the required reforms are appropriate, most African governments lack the capacity to implement them.
Birthed in 2008 with a central understanding that Africa needs more than economic growth, the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) envisioned to address some of the policies and institutional barriers that hamper sustained economic growth on the continent by calling for a new approach to ensure that African countries could fundamentally reorient themselves and realize sustained economic transformation.
Transformation in economics refers to a long-term change in dominant economic activity in terms of prevailing relative engagement or employment of able individuals. Thus, human economic systems undergo a number of deviations and departures from the “normal” state, trend or development.
ACET in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, organized a stakeholders policy dialogue on Agricultural Transformation at the University of Ghana with focus on four policy areas drawn from its 2017 Africa Transformation Report (ATR) that were identified by the two organisations as key priorities for the transformation of agriculture in Africa.
The report showed how a transformed agricultural sector can drive overall economic transformation in Africa. The four key areas focused on include Land reform, Agro-processing, Skills development and employment, and Markets.
In his remarks at the event, Dr. K. Y. Amoako, President of ACET indicated that, Agriculture could lead economic transformation in many countries in Africa, provided farm productivity was harmonized and linked to manufacturing and other sectors of the economy through agro-processing.
Based on the report, ACET collaborated with AGRA to develop policy platforms in 5 countries namely Ghana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ugandan and Tanzania, geared towards the harmonization of Africa’s transformation agenda.
“The framework of this collaboration will be the Agriculture Chapter of the Pan African Coalition for Transformation (PACT),” Dr. Amoako noted.
He emphasized that, the dialogue will help governments and local policymakers to gain information and support, as they design and implement innovative policies for economic transformation.
“To start the ￼process for Ghana, ACET and AGRA are hosting the Ghana Transformation Forum which will bring together key stakeholders to deliberate on how to leverage ATR ll to support the Government of Ghana in its transformation agenda. To this end, ACET and AGRA have commissioned four in-depth studies on the four key priority areas identified”.
“The outcomes of this initial meeting will be used as an input to the larger Africa Transformation Forum (ATF) planned for June 2018 in Accra, where the PACT Agriculture Chapter will be launched,” Dr. Amoako reemphasized.
However, Dr. Amoako said, “Our biggest economic opportunities are social too. By 2035, 450 million Africans would have joined the working age population, more than the rest of the world combined in that time. Our economies will leap forward if we create jobs these young people know how to do. Achieving this will require leaders committed to sustained investment and intelligent policymaking. That work starts now.”
Subject to the above, Heads of States, senior government officials and business leaders met in Accra, in a two-day African Transformation Forum (ATF) from 20th to 21st June, 2018, to chart a way forward and create opportunities for women and young people in efforts to reform Africa’s economies.
Key attendees included Africa’s richest person and owner of the Dangote Group Aliko Dangote, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, Cote d’Ivoire Vice President, Daniel Kablan Duncan and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA) Dr. Vera Songwe.
Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the event said government was taking steps to empower indigenous financial entities to be able to support and harmonize Ghana’s transformation agenda.
According to him, it’s unacceptable for foreign banks, that have become the major economic players to turn their backs on us, thus not being particularly involved in taking risk that would contribute to the development of the economies they operated in. “I don’t have a difficulty with people wanting to make money, but I do have a problem with making money in an environment whereby no significant contribution to the transformation of the economy is made.”
He emphasized the need for African countries to make policies to promote the growth of home-grown financial institutions that would engender the transformation Africa seeks. Saying, “That is an area that requires important policy making that promotes the indigenous banks to grow and be stronger enough to take up the role of providing the financial wherewithal to promote the transformation that we are looking to. We have not had it so far, but it’s an area my government is paying particular attention, because without having banks that are prepared to finance growth, industrial and agriculture initiatives, it is going to be difficult for us to make the transition that we are seeking.”
Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirliaf, on her part said, “what this panel is all about is very exciting. We need leadership that promotes growth for the many, not the few. As this continent’s first female President and the former leader of a very young population, I am passionate about getting our economies firing for everybody. We must learn from and with each other to develop a shared vision.”
Rwandan President, Paul Kagame also stressed the need for Africa to have a mindset that moved away from discussing the problems of the continent and focused on implementing strategies that would propel it into prosperity.
Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness (GCA) was also founded to address challenges facing Ghana’s agribusiness and value chain sector development. Especially, advocating for a holistic national agricultural and agribusiness sector policy. The organization seeks to promote technological innovation and knowledge management. Facilitate partnerships, financing as well as capacity building for its members.
The President of the Chamber of Agribusiness, Mr. Anthony Morrison, in a sideline interview with Sammy Adjei, stressed on the need for a regulatory body to supervise activities of the agriculture sector as it is with other sectors of the economy.
He believed that, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture MoFA, has become big enough to take on all the country’s growing agricultural demands, thus the need for such a framework. “Provided the country is serious about putting agriculture and agribusiness back on the map of performing sectors.”
Mr. Morrison intimated that, Ghana’s GDP from agriculture increased to GH¢ 7790.18 million in 2016 from GH¢ 7567 million in 2015. He indicated, averagely, it was GH¢ 6541.21 million from 2006 until 2016, when it arose to GH¢ 7790.18 and then recorded as low as GH¢ 5422 million in 2007.
According to him, many countries, organisations and institutions have come to this realization and are putting in place policies and programs towards driving the youth into the agriculture sector.
Initiatives such as “Making Farming Cool” a communications project by ACET and the Washington-based think-tank Initiative for Global Development, are doing a great job of encouraging young people into the food industries.
Such programs and policies, he said may be insufficient if agriculture is not mainstreamed among young people. And the best way to do this was to change the narrative when it comes to agriculture, to show how vital it is to our communities and the world at large.
“We should be able to create a singular narrative between farming and crop production with its end products, in order for the young people to see its connection with their everyday lives,” said.
In his recommendation, he said, if we want to put Ghana’s agriculture and agribusiness back on the map, we need to come up with a regulatory body. An Agriculture Authority that will regulate trades and standards, so that the Ministry would just focus on policies for the sector”. Mr. Morrison said.
Again, there was the need to start taking stock of all agriculture lands which he thinks must be part of the remit of the regulatory authority.