Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Africa Business Group Michael Sudarkasa has said Africa’s future in Agriculture is bright, “The future is so bright, I can see tomorrow,” he says.
Sudarkasa who spoke at the 14th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Private Partnership conference in Libreville, Gabon is however asking African states to take advantage of the large African population as a market for agricultural produce.
“We have an unprecedented number of instruments and asset classes at our disposal for investment in agriculture a near US$1 trillion continental market, a soon to be 2.4 billion population driving,” adding that the largely untapped diaspora market with the purchasing power, skills and increasing investment appetite provide a good opportunity for Africa’s agricultural growth potential.
The African Business Group CEO based in Johannesburg, South Africa says the 10% budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector that was proposed the heads of state at the African Union Summit in Maputo, Mozambique in 2003 if implemented will ensure a 6% growth of the sector.
“This will aid in realizing the much sought after agricultural transformation in Africa as epitomized in the Malabo Declaration of 2014,” he said and added, “it means more inclusive markets with women and youth contributing significantly, and in proportion to their numbers in our societies.”
In his keynote address Sudarkasa said the youth are key in the transformation process as they are technologically savvy and could aid Africa in the modernization of Africa agriculture through taking advantage of their large numbers.
“This will mean greater use of modern farming methods, ICT, mechanization and improved inputs,” he said.
He urged African farmers to embrace technology and ensure that they adapt to climate change through embracing urban agriculture through use of such techniques as indoor farming, hydroponics technology, aquaponics and vertical farming which he noted is the next frontier of farming in a situation where farmlands are shrinking by the day.
“We need our youth to be introduced to the full value chain of opportunities in agriculture, on the farm and beyond the farm,” he said and added, “We need to incentivize innovation to create our own tools of production including equipment, machinery and technology.”
The Africa Business Group CEO, called for use of such instruments as food output targets, import substitution targets, agriculture contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) targets, innovation targets, to make our own processing machinery, adoption of climate smart and sustainable farming methods targets to agriculture a sustainable business venture.
“Even if we have the targets, are they known to the stakeholders who needs such information to make informed investment decisions, business decisions,” he pondered, adding that not everyone in the village should be farming. “Less is more and investment in agriculture implies returns on investment.”
He advised African states to encourage a situation in which there are fewer farmers, who can farm more efficiently. “Arguably, we need fewer farmers, who farm more efficiently and take advantage of economies of scale to improve their earnings and their returns.”
While noting that there is a need to map the African agriculture investment landscape, the target investors, the productive end of the value chain and creating the market, Sudarkasa called for synergy between the Ministries of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Finance, Education so as to realize the much needed agricultural transformation.
“If you have a farm without a processing plant you have weeds, and if you have a processing plant with adequate supply you have scrap metal.”
He said the National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs) should give rise to Regional Agriculture Investment Plans (RAIPs) so as to help drive the creation of larger, more integrated market that have harmonized regulation and trade policies.
“We need to provide greater incentives for investment in agriculture and have our Trade and Industry Ministries to focus our industrialization goals around value addition of agricultural produce,” he said.
He noted that a clear strategy to build competitive indigenous food businesses, invest more in global value chains that rely on our crops, and expanding, “protecting our domestic regional markets will create more support for smallholder farmers.”
Sudarkasa said leveraging on the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in the agriculture value chain will help to protect the emerging African multinationals involved in food, franchising, retail, processing and exporting.