Agriculture can power the economic transformation of African countries, according to a new report from the Ghana-based African Center Economic Transformation (ACET), founded by former Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, K.Y. Amoako.
The 2017 report, Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation, has been backed by some African finance ministers.
Commenting on the report, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General and Chair of the Africa Progress Panel said, “with a uniquely diverse climate and more than half the world’s uncultivated arable land, Africa has the natural resources to drive a boom in agriculture that can lift millions out of poverty. But we have not yet created the right economic conditions”.
He said, “This excellent report shows how we can do that – and underlines why we must.”
Finance Minister of Burkina Faso, Rosine Coulibaly Sori said, “This is not just an economic argument. The steps needed to transform Africa’s agriculture make excellent social policies too.”
She said, “Eighty percent of African farmers are small holders and half of those are women. With more secure access to land, they can operate modern farms that produce more, and raise their incomes. These reforms could feed our people and fuel our economies, but we must act quickly.”
Chief Economist at ACET, and lead author of the report, Yaw Ansu said, “This is not just about agriculture. This is about how you transform the whole economy, with agriculture as the catalyst and a driver.”
He said, “There are lessons to learn from East Asia, but they need to be adapted to the African context, including our historical land ownership system, which is currently acting as a brake on transformation.”
“Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation,” views agriculture and its challenges through a transformational lens rooted in national economies.
The report’s practical approach is intended for African policymakers, addressing key issues such as land tenure, agricultural productivity, commercialization of farming, agribusiness, employment, the role of women in agriculture, and balancing intensification with environmental sustainability and climate change.
The report concludes that agricultural transformation requires two processes: modernizing farming by boosting productivity and strengthening the links between farms and other economic sectors, particularly manufacturing through agro-processing.
Likewise, the report addresses the importance of ensuring gender equity in access to the opportunities opened up by agricultural transformation and the rapidly changing institutional environment for African agriculture.
It also emphasizes the need to leverage technological innovations to spur transformation.
Modernization of agriculture
Modernising African agriculture will require policies to boost farm productivity and strengthen the sector’s links with the rest of the economy.
To achieve this, African countries must overhaul their land tenure systems and support farmers by making new technologies accessible, reducing business risk and educating them as businesspeople.
These reforms could trigger an economic transformation with benefits far beyond the sector, stimulating growth in manufacturing and related services, whilst driving down food prices and raising disposable incomes.
Transforming agriculture would enable the continent to feed its own people whilst growing its economies.
African countries currently spend $68bn a year on food imports, a figure likely to keep rising.
Meanwhile global food demand is forecast to double by 2050, by which time the continent will be home to 1 billion young people.
Drawing on comprehensive data and analysis from across African economies, the report highlights key opportunities and challenges to reform.
Growing private sector involvement in agriculture and developments in technology offer opportunities to rapidly accelerate agricultural transformation, but must be balanced with measures to ensure the benefits are shared and sustainable.
Strategic investments and innovative programs from governments are urgently needed to support existing farmers and bring in new investors in agriculture and agri-business.
The report is the second Transformation Report from the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), an economic policy institute supporting Africa’s long-term growth through transformation.
It was financed in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as part of their commitment to improving lives in Africa.
The World Bank provided technical comments to the report.