African needs policy reforms

23Apr 2019
Angel Navuri
The Guardian
African needs policy reforms

Despite having enough arable land and a strong population to meet its local food needs, Africa remains one of the world’s largest food net importer.

What should be done to address this anomaly, Guardian Reporter Angela Navuri talked to  Dr Hamady Diop who is the current Head of Program titled, ‘Natural resources governance, food security and nutrition” of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, excerpts:

Africa’s agriculture holds immense potential. The sector accounts for about 40 percent of gross domestic product, 15 percent of exports and between 60 and 80 percent the continent’s potential and yet the continent’s food import bill is on the increase, why?

Last year the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD released a report on ‘Ending Hunger’ in Africa. Results indicate that in the early 1990’s both imports and exports of agricultural commodities were relatively small but since then imports have grown to be four times the level of exports and net imports are now 14 percent of agricultural demand. Looking at the path going forward, without substantial changes in dynamic of demands and supply, the portion of Africans who will be undernourished will fall from about 17 percent to about 12 percent by 2025. Over the same period, agro imports will increase from 14 percent of total demand to 25 percent. This is because the future of the continent’s agriculture is low productivity because of low usage of the arable land. Thus on the supply side, Africa could produce enough food to meet no-hunger level needs by 2025 with increases in food production through increased yields and land expansion along with reduction in food loss.

African heads of state revived their commitments to transform the agriculture sector through the Malabo Declaration in 2014, why have several countries failed to commit the agreed 10 percent of public resources to agriculture?

The commitment of 10 percent of public resources to agriculture should lead to 6 percent growth of agricultural productivity. Consequently, this should help address the target of ending hunger by 2025. Regarding the CAADP commitment of allocating at least 10 percent of annual public expenditures to agriculture, based on the outcome of the biennial review, African Union member states have allocated public spending in agriculture at various rates, ranging from 0.6 percent to 17.6 percent. Only ten members namely: Angola (14.8), Burkina (10.5), Egypt (14.0), Equatorial Guinea (10.5), Ethiopia (16.8), Malawi (17.6), Mali (12.4), Mauritania (13.0), Senegal (11) and Sudan (13.4), have met the target during the review period of 2015 and 2016. We hope other AU members will commit to the Malabo Declaration’s target.

How can African countries produce enough food internally towards capturing a big share of the US$35 billion market in food imports and climb up the value chain towards promoting competitive exports?

African countries can produce enough food internally through intensification of agriculture that creates surplus for urban areas, limits rural exodus and lowers production costs while increasing individual incomes and curtailing the expansion of land under cultivation. This intensification must be sustainable with an efficient use of inputs (fertilisers, chemicals, pesticides, better seed variety, etc.) while reducing environmental damage and building resilience.

Several African countries have signed onto the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. How would the EPA promote or constrain agricultural production and value addition for exports?

A European Centre for Development’s discussion paper published in 2017 looked at the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiated between the EU and African regional blocs. Their hypothesis was to investigate whether EPAs have helped to promote the gradual integration of African economies into global markets, including by supporting African businesses to increase their participation in regional and global value chains. The study focused on three case studies of the Kenyan dairy value chain and Namibian fisheries and horticulture value chains.  The study concluded that these EPAs do not significantly alter market access conditions relevant to many African producers and service providers, and are thus unlikely to have major direct impacts, either positive or negative, on their prospects for participating in regional and global value chains. There is thus need for development partners and other actors to complement EPA implementation with support for value chain development initiatives and awareness-raising and capacity building to ensure African business can take advantage of EPA related opportunities, and for the establishment and use of effective mechanisms to monitor EPA impacts.

It is argued that Africa’s industrialization ought to start with agriculture. But with the current trade regime, how can African countries promote agricultural value chain while remaining competitive in global trade?

To promote an inclusive value chain approach to agricultural development, the continent focus should go beyond the narrow confines of the farm to embrace the agro-industry and agri-business stages that connect farmers to markets. This will demand the development of strong and cost effective linkages of farmers, especially smallholders and women farmers, to input markets for an increase in productivity and capacity to generate adequate volumes of quality products to meet the demand of agro-processing and agribusiness enterprises for reliable supplies of standard-quality raw material. Additionally, there exists a high degree of fragmentation of the African agricultural markets along national borders among more than a dozen often overlapping sub-regional groupings. This has created vacuum filled by imports from non-African origins even in cases where tradable surplus exist within the continent. To circumvent this later issue, African agriculture must modernize, become more productive, profitable and competitive, and create more added value locally to meet the fast growing demand through a better functioning of agricultural produce markets.

Has there been a significant move away from staple crops and towards export-driven commodities? How does this affect food security, particularly in conflict and climate impacted regions?

In West Africa, for example, traditional export crops included cotton, coffee, and cocoa.  Most of those value chains were developed through state controlled development models. They will continue, in future, to have considerable weight in government programmes and development strategies despite the setbacks in exports markets experienced since the 1990s and the progressive collapse of the state controlled development model. Staple food supply chains generally exhibit a lower degree of integration and a much broader range of marketing channels than export oriented supply chains. Also farmers are both producers and consumers of staple foods. Some of the dominant staple foods we have on the continent include rice, maize, sorghum-millet, cassava and palm oil. These staple foods are in many cases produced by smallholder farmer that are more likely to be displaced by conflicts when these arise. The 2030 agenda recognizes the link between conflict and food security, whereby conflict threatens sustainable development in many countries.

What is the relationship between agricultural policies and the issue of financial inclusion? Can fostering greater access to financial services and lending help to improve agricultural output and smallholder farming?

The great majority of smallholder farmers on the continent do not have access to capital other than in informal ways which tend to be expensive and also very limited . This situation definitely hinders agricultural productivity and smallholder farming. Public policy should be put in place so that affordable funding on a long-term basis is made available to smallholder farmers. Financial services other than loans are also needed, insurance being a prominent one to create incentives for smallholders to invest more.

Africa’s agriculture is mainly driven by smallholders, but there is popular policy intervention of promoting commercial agriculture, meant to boost exports. How could the continent merge these two forms of agriculture, while recognizing that rural population who depend much on farming are smallholders?

The structure of farming on the continent, as in the world, is characterized by heterogeneous systems where few large farms co-exist with large number of small farms with various institutional frameworks, modus operandi, and in many cases limited interactions that hinder vertical integration and scale economies in both marketing and processing. There is evidence indicating that smallholder activities are characterized by productivity and production levels far below potential due to either weaknesses or gaps in farmer support services which include research, extension and access to credit. Those producing for sale face challenges with market related issues such as poor market information, feeder roads, transport and storage. The actors of the upstream levels of commodity value chains also have a multiplicity of challenges due to policy deficiencies, including insufficient innovative financing, low skill levels, and inadequate expertise in processing-related issues.

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