Agriculture lies at heart of Africa’s growth

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) called on global leaders at the just ended World Economic Forum on Africa meeting in Cape Town, South Africa to recognize that the agriculture sector is the heart of Africa’s growth.

President of AGRA, Jane Karuku, said evidence shows every dollar invested in agriculture in Africa has an impact on poverty reduction, and the impact is sometimes three to four times greater compared to the impact from an equal amount invested in other sectors. “As the clock ticks towards 2014, the pressure is now on for our governments to live up to the commitment they made in Maputo.

Growth in Africa’s agricultural sector, food security and poverty alleviation across the continent all depend on achieving this goal,” Karuku said.

Karuku and Strive Masiyiwa, the vice-chair of AGRA and founder of Econet Wireless, participated at this year’s 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa that ended last week Friday in Cape Town.

Hosted under the theme ‘Delivering on Africa’s promise’ the conference looked at how the projected annual growth of 5 percent among sub-Saharan African countries could be used to transform the continent into a hub of global growth.

According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status. At the same time, the continent’s positive outlook is threatened by fluctuating commodity prices, rising inequality and youth unemployment.

Karuku and Masiyiwa spoke of the need to urgently close the gap between the current and the potential contribution that agriculture makes to Africa’s growth and development.

Karuku says it makes good sense to increase investment in agriculture in line with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) commitments. The 2010 CAADP had indicated that only eight African countries met their pledge to commit 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture, while many others were making progress.

“WEF Africa 2013 is asking the question, how we can deliver on Africa’s promise. The answer is that agriculture must be at the heart of our efforts.”

In addition, Karuku says, Africa needs widespread and sustainable economic growth, and the continent is showing vast progress. However, she noted that the biggest contribution to reducing poverty would have to come from the agricultural sector – the sector in which most Africans earn their livelihoods. She also opines that smallholder farmers in Africa face many challenges, but the opportunities on offer should far exceed these.

“Governments have a big role to play in resolving the unfriendly business environment that currently prevents smallholder farmers from commercialising their operations and moving beyond subsistence. We need to ensure that farmers have access to inputs like improved seeds, but they must also be empowered to sell their own produce on markets,” she added.

“Governments must become much more courageous on this issue, especially when it comes to land rights, the policy environment, and access to finance and infrastructure,” countered Masiyiwa, emphasising the role of the private sector in achieving sustainable growth in the agriculture sector.

“Promoting investment in the agriculture sector requires governments and other stakeholders to speak to private investors, so that they gain a better understanding of the business environment, the regulatory bottlenecks they face, and the incentives on offer,” Masiyiwa said.


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