The $313billion worth Agricultural sector employs about 70% of Africa’s population. What impact would the Agricultural sector have in the economy of African countries if this value was tripled? Most countries in Africa are struggling with unemployment and poverty. According to the 2013 World Bank Report, Africa has the potential of transforming the Agriculture sector into a $1trillion industry by 2030. This will increase employment opportunities and improve the value of agricultural land. This will only be possible if changes are made in the farming practices.
Impact of a $1trillion Agricultural sector
A decline in poverty
For the past 25 years, Ethiopia has performed better than expected in Agriculture. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) had estimated growth of 6% for Sub-Sahara Africa. This target was considered fair enough. Many African countries have been unable to reach this target. However, Ethiopia has continued to defy this estimate. In the years that Ethiopia has performed exceptionally well, poverty levels in the country had dropped in half. What is Ethiopia doing that other African nations need to emulate? Several countries are following Ethiopia’s footsteps by prioritizing on Agriculture.
Infrastructure and Agriculture are synonymous. If farmers are not able to get their produce to the markets, they remain poor. If the population cannot get the food they need, they suffer from malnutrition. The economy also slows down since the export market will remain small. A $1 trillion Agricultural sector means improved infrastructure. Farmers will be able to appreciate the value of irrigation so they will invest in it. The Government will not underestimate the agricultural land that has been neglected because of poor roads.
Reduction in wasted arable land
In 2017, almost 1.3million Kenyans were threatened with starvation. Maize is Kenya’s staple food. Its production dropped by about 30%. Although most of the blame has been placed on drought, much of the arable land lies idle in Kenya. It is estimated that about 60,000acres of arable land owned by parastatals and individuals lie bare. There have been proposals for the law to penalize landowners who do not fully utilize their land for the production of food. Growth of the Agricultural sector will push land owners to be part of the food production chain or to lease their land.
How Africa can achieve the $1trillion target for the Agriculture sector
Invest in renewable sources of water
Africa currently uses only 2% of its renewable sources of water. It has been estimated that by 2025, 25 countries in Africa will be water stressed. In 1995, 13 countries were said to be affected by water scarcity. Unfortunately, Africa does not have adequate data and analysis of available water resources that are being underutilized. Countries in Africa need to take into consideration the renewable sources of income and how to use them to boost Agriculture, if possible, all year round. This will reduce over-reliance on rainfall, and naturally, food production will improve.
During the rainy season, Africa loses plenty of water because the facilities needed for the storage of water are not in place. If some of the rainwater was stored for future use, Africa would not be complaining of low production because of drought. This will also encourage farmers to invest in irrigation. All-year food production will result in food security. More importantly, Africa’s agricultural sector will grow faster than the suggested 6%.
Political will to boost Agriculture
Without the policies to support its growth, the agricultural sector’s future remains bleak. Ethiopia is well known for its coffee. The government ensures that the coffee farmers are supported and able to get their produce to the market. In the past 20 years, Ethiopia’s government has put much focus on infrastructural development. This has played a critical role in the growth of the Agriculture sector in this country. Several countries are in the pursuit of infrastructure development in a bid to ensure the entire country is connected. This will ease the movement of people and produce. Good roads also foster the development of urban centres.
Introduce value addition
Unfortunately, most countries in Africa export their produce “raw”. They export milk then import butter. Africa stands to gain more from Agriculture by investing in value addition. The value of the products will increase if they are exported in different forms. For example, during the rainy season, many countries lose a lot of milk because the supply exceeds demand. Some farmers pour out the milk that is not consumed, or they sell it at a throw away price. How much would these farmers earn if they used this milk to produce butter and cheese? This is a million-dollar industry that could quickly get Africa to the $1trillion target much sooner.
The use of technology
Although Africa has made great strides in the use of technology in farming, there is still a lot to be done. Many parts of Africa have the third generation and fourth generation mobile network technology. This means communication has become faster and it has become easier for farmers to communicate. Unfortunately, even though many farmers have smartphones, many only use them to receive and make calls.
It is time Africa used the tech-savvy youth to foster growth in the Agriculture sector. Technology easily links farmers to the available markets. Technology can be used to reduce losses by checking the quality of soil before planting. Technology can also be used in the exploration of renewable sources of water.
Agriculture is a sector that requires combined effort for it to become a $1 trillion sector. A thriving agriculture sector will attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The benefits of this sector are highly complex. A strong Agriculture sector has a ripple effect that is yet to be realized by any other industry. However, for this target to be attained, this sector needs a vision, strategy, and coordination that will result in the economic transformation of Africa.