For centuries, agriculture has driven economic growth in countries across the globe, and African nations are following the same path out of poverty. Reports by the World Bank Group show that Agribusiness in Africa contributes about 25 percent of the continent’s GDP and a staggering 70 percent of its employment. The continent is a top producer of many of the world’s best-loved products, including tea from Kenya, fruits from South Africa, cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and vanilla from Madagascar.
Africa now earns an average of 24 percent of its annual growth from its farmers and their crops. The World Bank Group predicts that both agriculture and agribusiness could command a US$ 1 trillion presence in Africa’s regional economy by 2030. Despite pockets of success, Africa’s agribusiness sector has hardly reached its full potential, with production struggling in some places to meet rising local and export demand or to compete efficiently in a global marketplace.
Challenges to Agricultural Development
The elephant in the room is the fact that Africa has not yet been able to demonstrate a model of how Agriculture can move people out of poverty. This crisis, that agriculture must respond to, is compounded by an equally huge challenge of climate change which finds most of the African agriculture largely ill-prepared.
Meanwhile, while the full scale of the pandemic’s effects is still unfolding, the impact on Africa’s agriculture and food systems are being felt in multiple dimensions. Fortunately, primary production has proved remarkably resilient, in the sense that most farmers and livestock keepers have been able to continue producing.
Africa’s agribusiness sector has hardly reached its full potential, with production struggling in some places to meet the rising local and export demand or to compete efficiently in a global marketplace.
In contrast, challenges have often appeared downstream in the supply chain, as the flow of many food products has been disrupted by mobility restrictions that have caused bottlenecks in the distribution or impeded redirecting flows of food as some sectors of the economy have closed down.
Unlocking the Continent’s Potential
There´s no doubt that the agricultural sector can play a vital role in supporting a sustainable economic recovery in Africa by safeguarding the continent’s food supply, providing employment, generating foreign exchange earnings, and restoring the ecosystem services on which the long-term welfare of the planet depends.
Importantly, the recovery provides an opportunity to build back better and to promote integrated actions at the nexus of human, animal, and environmental health. Jobs and economic transformation should be at the center of this forward-looking strategy, building on resilient infrastructure and strengthened human capital.
Smallholder farmers will be the backbone of these efforts. New and evolving markets hold the promise of greater profits for smallholder farmers. This will provide lucrative opportunities not just for the women and men who grow the food, but for a wide range of rural workers, especially the emerging generation of young people.
African economic growth remains largely commodity-based on exports of oil, minerals, and agricultural commodities with little or no processing involved. To accelerate sustainable and inclusive growth and development, there is an urgent need for fostering a new development approach based on exploiting the full agribusiness potential of the continent.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in its April 2020 report, suggested that countries will need to create a crisis committee to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on food supply, involving, among others, ministries of agriculture, livestock, and food supply, transport, economy, trade, and so forth. Governments will also have to engage the private sector and find a balance in policy to achieve two objectives: increasing food security by producing more staple food locally, and stimulating the production of exported products which increases GDP and currency earnings.