By Linnet Kalenda*
Agriculture contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Africa has continued to deteriorate in the last five years. According to Rockefeller Foundation Africa managing director Mamadou Biteye, the agricultural sector in Africa has been diminishing as countries remain adamant in investing in the sector.
Statistics from the World Bank indicate that agriculture contribution to GDP has gone down from 22.9 percent in sub-Saharan Africa to 17.1 percent. It is estimated that agriculture is Africa’s largest economic sector, representing 15 percent of the continent’s total African countries are yet to invest 10 percent of national budgets in agricultural development as agreed in the 2003 The Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.
GDP, or more than $100 billion (Sh10 trillion) annually. It is highly concentrated, with Egypt and Nigeria alone accounting for one-third of total agricultural output and the top 10 countries generating 75 percent.
There are many opportunities for Africa to transform its agricultural agenda. The continent imports agricultural products worth $35 billion (Sh3.5 trillion), which can be produced in the continent and it’s set to hit $110 billion if nothing is done,” said Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) President Agnes Kalibata.
Africa has the land, water and people needed to be an efficient agricultural producer – and to feed an expanding urban population. The Guinea Savannah, a vast area that spreads across 25 countries, has the potential to turn several African nations into global players in bulk commodity production. In addition, countries such as Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Mozambique and Tanzania, have large breadbasket areas that could feed regional populations, displace imports and generate exports.
This potential is yet far from being fully explored, but some milestones have been reached. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rwanda’s farmers produced 792,000 tonnes of grain in 2014 – more than three times as much as in 2000. Production of maize, a vital crop in east Africa, jumped sevenfold. Cereal production tripled in Ethiopia between 2000 and 2014. The value of crops grown in Cameroon, Ghana and Zambia has risen by at least 50% in the past decade.
The single most pressing challenge facing Africa’s governments is to harness the continent’s increasing wealth and use it to improve people’s lives. Agriculture is at the heart of that challenge. To reduce poverty and boost economic growth, Africa will have to develop a vibrant and prosperous agricultural sector.
Singapore is aware of Africa’s vast potential to become the world’s granary and is making the right moves to tap into this opportunity. By investing and transferring technology and skills to the local population, it ensures that best practices in agriculture can be easily adopted by future generations. The improvements achieved by Olam and Wilmar International in the continent are real examples that this is the right strategy to implement. That is how agriculture in Africa will reach the standards of productivity and quality necessary to feed their own population and also to become a net exporter of agricultural products in the near future.
Agriculture is a proven path to prosperity. No region of the world has developed a diverse, modern economy without first establishing a successful foundation in agriculture. This is going to be critically true for Africa where, today, close to 70% of the population is involved in agriculture as smallholder farmers working on parcels of land that are, on average, less than 2 hectares. As such, agriculture remains Africa’s surest bet for growing inclusive economies and creating decent jobs mainly for the youth.(AGGRA Status Report 2017).
* DIRECTOR OF THE FORUM