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While farming across the continent remains precarious with variable weather, little irrigated land and the unpredictability of climate change, things are improving rapidly in the agricultural sector in Africa. In the last 5 years, grain production has tripled or more in Ethiopia, Mali and Zambia, with a real success story in Rwanda. Coordinated efforts at national, regional and continental level have helped to boost agricultural productivity. Agriculture today accounts for 32% of GDP in Africa. If offers potential for poverty reduction and job creation. There is a clear opportunity for increasing economic growth through a “smart” and coordinated approach to agriculture in Africa.

The Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), launched in 2003, has driven commitments by 42 African governments to increase public spending on agriculture. 14 of the 42 member states of the African Union have signed up to CAADP and have met or exceeded a national investment target of 10% of public resources into agriculture. But Africa has not achieved the second CAADP target, of a 6% increase in agricultural GDP. And currently, prohibitive lending rates prove to be a major hurdle to small-to-medium-sized agribusinesses. Public-sector investment is, clearly, not going to be enough.

We will need strong collaboration between government, the private sector, and development partners. Our national leaders need to demonstrate that they are championing local agriculture as part of their national development plan and that they are proactive in injecting their own resources into agriculture. We need to ensure the implementation of policy agreed upon and quickly address any gaps identified between the roadmap and practice. We will, indeed, only attract greater private-sector investment if we have the right policy environment with all stakeholders demonstrating strong leadership and accountability.

Grow Africa, co-founded in 2011 by the African Union Commission, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum, and now hosted by NEPAD, has emerged as a proven model for public-private sector collaboration at national and continental level. Grow Africa is an African-owned, country-led, market-based platform for cross-sector collaboration to increase inclusive and responsible investment in African agriculture. It has helped generate a private-sector investment commitment to agriculture of over $10 billion. Of that committed investment, $2.5 billion has been implemented between 2013 and 2015, benefiting more than 10 million smallholder farmers and creating over 88,000 jobs. This has a knock on effect on growth in general across the continent.

As Africa builds on a strong agricultural sector, we seize our own food market opportunity and capture a higher share of value from increased demand from urban consumers. This allows us to redress the tide of urbanization, which could tip the balance from food producers to food consumers and, thus, ensure food security. Structural and sustainable development in the agricultural sector also means that we can provide hope and opportunities for rural youth. Schemes under Grow Africa are providing them with incomes and protecting them against the threats of radicalization. Grow Africa helps to create social cohesion for Africans.

Grow Africa has proved to be a unique model for forging the connections between the public and private sectors needed to support the growth of the agriculture sector and unlock investment opportunities. Here are some of the most prominent examples of Grow Africa’s work, leveraging on multistakeholder platforms. In Nigeria and Ivory Coast, Grow Africa is working with multiple partners including ECOWAS, the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) and the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation to establish national platforms for promoting the domestic production of rice. Currently, over 50% of Nigeria’s and slightly under 50% of Ivory Coast’s domestic demand for rice is imported, despite ideal climatic conditions for growing the commodity.

In Ghana, Mozambique and Nigeria, Grow Africa is moving forward on the opportunity to supply cassava for industrial use. This represents a market opportunity of almost $150 million annually across the three countries. Supplying cassava for industrial use is estimated to improve farmer incomes by 50-300%.

Over 70% of the investments Grow Africa supports are made by agribusinesses headquartered in Africa, many of them small to medium sized businesses which are the backbone of the African agricultural economy. Grow Africa supports these companies by linking them to partners, including International food companies that are looking to source produce locally for local markets.

Agriculture is an essential tool for firing economic growth across the African continent and Grow Africa has found a winning formula to accelerate this process. Let’s keep up the momentum.