The future of agriculture in Africa (II)

There are arguments that much of the growth in Africa is inspired by commodity-based exports of oil, minerals and agricultural commodities with little or no processing involved. Therefore, to foster a healthy, accelerated, sustainable and inclusive growth and development in Africa, there is an over bearing need to foster a new development approach based on exploiting the full agribusiness potential of the continent.

The focus must move from exporting raw commodities to increasing agro-industrial value along the entire agri-business chain in agriculture, industry and services. I also recall that in the preface to that the UN Report, the authors stated that “Africa has the knowledge, the technology and the means to end hunger and food insecurity. But still missing have been the political will and dedication”.

The preponderance of the blame on political and government leadership cannot be overstated, because they exist to provide the policies, the direction, the motivation, the sustenance of the policies and the programmes, the coordination and the oiling of the total machinery in terms of resources and funding. If leadership lacks knowledge, vision, sense of mission and direction, the people will not only go astray, they may perish.

My personal experience has taught me that to make the desirable progress in food and nutrition security, the process must be spearheaded and driven at the highest political and government level, and amply supported by the private sector and individuals who must discern a direct role for themselves with a broader view to meet continental and global demand. Goals and attitudes must change. Agriculture in Africa should no longer be seen as a development programme or obligation for humanitarian purposes to feed the “African population”.

Agriculture must be seen as an aggressive business endeavour with a chain of producers, suppliers and facilitators that must be integral to the success of the scheme. I have attempted to identify at least eight groups of participants or actors who must form these new structures that establish and promote agribusiness or food security value chain. They must not only be acknowledged but must be motivated and empowered. They are:

• The Farmers: Whatever may be the scale of their operations, they are the king and they must be able to perform their business profitably, sustainably and predictably. They must be properly organised to have a voice for themselves and to ward off the unwanted and the undesirable. There is also the question of the future of farmers. How do we encourage a steady successor generation of farmers? We must begin these by encouraging young people to take to farming as a business. That will mean providing adequate alternatives to the bright light of the cities, the temptations of criminality and the lure of a hip-hop culture that consumes without production.

• The Scientists, Researchers and Innovators: Technology and innovation must be provided all along the value chain from land clearing and preparation to food on the table. Their work must be protected and be adequately remunerated. •Banks and Financial Institutions: Funds and resources must regularly, adequately and judiciously flow into all areas of the value chain of food and nutrition production and security. The responsibility starts from Central Banks, to Development Banks, Commercial Banks, donors, development partners and micro-credit organisations. Rates of interest higher than single digit cannot help agriculture.


Author: President Olusegun Obasanjo

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