African leadership forum proposes measures to drive agricultural transformation

December 7, 2017
The African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the Initiative for Global Development (IGD), the Rockefeller Foundation and Grow Africa, organized the first-ever Leadership for Agriculture Forum (L4Ag) on the margins of the fifth African Union-European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on November 28. The Forum explored how agriculture and agribusiness can be the engine of economic transformation in Africa.

The forum drew on recent analysis and findings from the World Bank’s “Improving the Business Climate in Agriculture 2017” report and the African Center for Economic Transformation’s (ACET’s) African Transformation Report 2017, titled Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation.

In his keynote remarks, AfDB President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina stressed the need to help Africa modernize its agriculture because billions of dollars are invested each year to import food.  “We need to modernize, we need to have young educated farmers, because agriculture is the most interesting economic activity” he said.

Successful interventions in other countries show us that if we have the right technology, appropriate policies, access to finance, and good infrastructure we can transform agriculture in Africa. “Hoes and cutlasses have no place in African agriculture, hence the low productivity”. Dr. Adesina said “We see women, who form the bulk of the labour force, with hoes and cutlasses with kids on their backs. That’s not agriculture, that’s suffering”, he added.

He advocated land titling and reforms to boost agricultural production in Africa. “Land titling should be universal, especially for women, otherwise we’re passing poverty from one generation to the next. It’s also time to put in place a land tax for unused arable land, Dr. Adesina emphasised.

In a stirring call to action, the AfDB President said Africa has the potential to feed itself. “We need leaders who can make transformation happen. You are the leaders, let’s transform our rural areas from zones of suffering to zones of economic prosperity”, Dr. Adesina said.

Presenting the objectives of the Leadership4Agriculture forum, Dr. Chiji Ojukwu, AfDB Director for Agriculture and Agro-Industry, said that the forum provides a platform for dialogue, advocacy and policy formulation to tackle current and emerging challenges to the development of the agricultural sector in Africa.

“This is a platform for sharing ideas and learning from the best systems for supporting smallholder farmers, and getting guidance to push policy advocacy in Africa. It also facilitates engagement and partnerships between African policy makers and investors,” Dr. Ojukwu said.

In closed sessions, African finance and agricultural ministers and representatives of civil society organizations and the private sector shared ideas on increasing access to agricultural inputs to enhance productivity and regulatory reforms.

ACET’s Chief Economist, Dr. Yaw Ansu, presented findings of the African Transformation Report 2017, as a key resource for closed sessions on agribusiness and public-private sector consultations. He highlighted commercialized agriculture, increased access to finance and reduction of foreign exchange risks as key concerns in transforming agriculture.

Panellist Poorva Pandya of ETG Farmers Foundation, called on the private sector to be involved in agricultural transformation in Africa. “Engage the private sector at the start of agricultural projects, not after policy making or projects are defined,” Pandya said.

Earlier this year, ACET presented its Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation report at an IGD Frontier 100 Forum, on October 12, in Washington DC. The theme for the forum was “Growing ‘The Middle’: Investing in African Companies for the Continent’s Economic Transformation.” It focused on increasing U.S. investment in Africa and investing in African mid-sized companies for sustainable development and inclusive growth.

Participants at the October event underscored the need to build the educational capacity of African farmers to engage with supply chains in the agro-processing industry. “There is less than 1% of U.S investment in Africa because of gaps in education and information,” said a participant. Others highlighted the importance of treating farming as agribusiness to transform the agricultural sector. “Speak the language of money to farmers, it is a better inspiration to improve agricultural value chains”, a participant said. “Agriculture is the only sector that is recession-proof. If you want to make money, invest in agriculture”, said another participant.

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