African govts urged to develop agribusiness

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The World Bank has advised African governments to take pragmatic measures to develop agriculture and agribusiness in their countries because they hold the key to the continent’s economic growth.

A report launched by the bank titled ‘Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness’, indicates that income generated from agriculture and agribusiness in Africa could triple from the current $313 billion per year to $1trillion by 2030 if African governments implement better policies and give more support to agriculture and agribusiness.

Specifically, the report stresses the need for increased access to more capital, electricity, better technology and irrigation facilities to enhance the production of high quality foods.

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Africa is well disposed to take advantage of booming markets in rice, maize, soybeans, sugar, palm oil and biofuel, according to the report, commanding about 50 per cent (450 million hectares) of the world’s uncultivated land suitable for food production.

The boom in those agricultural products had emerged as a result of many factors, including population growth, rising incomes and urbanisation.

“To realise these opportunities, Africa has to overcome a legacy of state intervention in agricultural markets, weak land markets, and the neglect of public investment in agriculture,” the report indicated.

It, however, noted that poor yield of major food crops, cuts in research spending, land degradation, water scarcity and climate change, have been major constraints to tapping Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness potentials.

“These adverse trends can be reversed through good policies, sustained public and private investments, and strong public-private partnerships backed by open, transparent procedures and processes along the entire value chain,” it said.

From the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C., a team of the bank’s officials on Monday discussed details of the report via a video press conference with some journalists and civil society actors in Accra, Ghana; Kampala, Uganda; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Dakar, Senegal.

The Vice President of the World Bank (Africa Region), Mr Makhtar Diop, stressed the need for African countries to intensify efforts at regional integration in order to take advantage of the regional market in respect of agricultural produce and agribusiness.

He urged them to use the advancement in telecommunications to fast-track the integration process, adding that regional integration would help reduce cost of agricultural production.

Mr Diop said it was important for the private sector to play active role in the promotion of agriculture and agribusiness in Africa.

The Director of the Sustainable Development Department for the African Region at the World Bank, Mr Jamal Saghir, said agriculture and agribusiness held the key to the growth of Africa.

He, however, expressed concern that Africa had lost its competitiveness on the global market, transforming from a net exporter to a net importer of agricultural products over the past 30 years.

“This trend must be reversed,” he remarked.

For his part, the Director for Finance and Private Sector Development at the World Bank, Mr Gaiv Tata, said the report was a comprehensive and analytical framework on how Africa could improve on technology in agriculture and create more jobs.

Story by Kofi Yeboah

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