Green Revolution in Africa - Agricultural requirements for development

An African Green Revolution forum will be held from 4th to 8th September in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.  The session expected to bring together high-profile luminaries in the agricultural sector will be an opportunity to review the implementation of commitments made to revolutionize African agriculture. On the eve of this meeting, Mr. Ibrahim Gourouza-Magagi, Grow Africa regional director for West and Central Africa, outlines in an exclusive interview the issues for discussion.  He says there should be a “cultural revolution” in Africa, to change the way the public and the private sectors interact to facilitate the improvement of agricultural quality and productivity.

Togo-Press: Grow Africa is a program that seem to be little-known by African actors in the agricultural sector. Tell us about the program’s objectives and its flagship activities so far aimed at benefiting Agriculture in Africa.

Mr. Ibrahim Gourouza-Magagi: First let me thank you for the opportunity. Grow Africa is a joint NEPAD, African Union Commission and World Economic Forum program established in 2011.

Grow Africa works to grow private sector agricultural investments in Africa. It facilitates collaboration between governments, national and international businesses in agriculture and small-scale farmers.

The aim is to enable countries to realise the potential of the agricultural sector, for economic growth and job creation, notably among farmers - women and youth.

We believe that transformation in African agriculture will take place within multi-sectoral platforms linked to priority value chains in African countries.

Grow Africa has thus helped to establish multi-sectoral platform for cassava in Nigeria; a multi-sectoral platform for rice in Côte d’Ivoire; a multi-sectoral platform for rice and cassava in Ghana; one for potatoes in Kenya and one for maize in Malawi.

We believe that from within these platforms will emerge well-structured profitability analyses to be presented to private sector investors.

T.-P.: Mr Director, Grow Africa is involved in organizing the forum on the green revolution in Africa to be held from 4th to 8th September in Abidjan. Will this be just another meeting or conference, especially knowing that up to now, apart from cash crops, and despite the enormous potential, agriculture has been relegated to the back burner of priority by several Governments?

I. G-M.: Here are some figures to demonstrate the importance of agriculture for Africa.  African agriculture accounts for 40% of GDP in Africa, it accounts for 15 % of the exports, it provides 60 to 80 % of jobs. Africa holds 24 % of the world’s agricultural land, and

80% of its arable land is not cultivated. The Abidjan forum cannot or can no longer afford to be just another meeting simply because every year in Africa, more than 10 million young people enter the job market. For these young men and women to gain from economic growth from African agriculture and agribusiness, there is need for inter-sectoral interventions.

T.P.: Talking about this forum, what in concrete terms are your expectations on the discussions?

I.G-M.:  We will have in attendance African heads of state and governments, ministers of finance, industry, agriculture and territorial administration and leaders in the food industry and agribusiness, partner development organizations, civil society and financial institutions; it means we will have yet another opportunity to widely advice on the transformation of African agriculture.

T.P.: Regarding the issues, could you highlight the key topics for debate during the forum?

I.G-M.: The theme for this year’s forum is: “Accelerating Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture”. During the African Green Revolution Forum to be held in Abidjan from 4th to 8th September 2017, we will discuss the following six strategic topics: funding, inputs, the market and trade, mechanization, women in agriculture and the youth in agriculture.

T. P.:  What concrete action would you say African countries should take for their agriculture to genuinely contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction?

 I.G-M.: That’s very simple, let us start by collectively implementing the decisions that we make. Unfortunately, there is always no action. I am not going to be very original by saying that for agriculture to genuinely contribute to growth in Africa, there is need for 3 things: putting in place an agribusiness policy; encourage the next generation entrepreneurs in agribusiness; fill the infrastructure gap.

T. P.:  After Abidjan, what is expected to change in the African agricultural sector?

I.G-M.:  You know, this type of forum is a meeting between public and private sectors. If as an outcome of Abidjan, we manage to create conditions for a multi-sectoral partnership and collaboration between the ministers of agriculture, finance, industry and other related sectors that ensure efficiency in the entire agricultural ecosystem, a lot of progress will have been made towards the green revolution.

T.P.: On the eve of this forum what is your message to decision makers and other actors in the agricultural sector?

I.G-M.: I will also have a three-pronged message on that:

  • It is predicted that by 2050, nearly 50 % of the African population will be living in urban areas, there is growing pressure caused by the need to provide enough health, nutritional and practical food.  That calls for innovative and viable partnerships to build business models within food and agribusiness sectors that can help face this challenge.

 

  • Enhance purchase from small-scale farmers.  The 33 million African small-scale farmers account for more than 80 % of agricultural production.  If we purchase directly from them, the supply base of a business will be expanded, the margins paid to collectors and middlemen will be reduced, and quality and productivity will be improved.

 

  • We need cultural revolution to change the way the public and private sectors interact and the demands they place on each other. The public sector must lead in policy reforms for agricultural transformation.

Interview by Bernardin ADJOSSE

The original interview can be accessed here