For ages Africa has consistently been the subject of diverse growth projections. The potential of the continent has been weighed-up on many fronts with assuring predictions always reported.
This enormous potential which can only be realized through a collective resolve by African countries puts Ghana’s current domestic agriculture policies into perspective. Ghana’s Planting for Food and Jobs and its allied modules like Rearing For Food And Jobs are important cogs that could help Africa on its way to bringing the expectations of stakeholders to fruition.
According to a recent World Bank report “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness,” Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030 if they can expand their access to more capital, electricity, better technology and irrigated land to grow high-value nutritious foods. The report calls on governments to work side-by-side with agribusinesses, to link farmers with consumers in an increasingly urbanized Africa.
African countries need policies to unlock the huge potential that most people on the continent have inexplicably failed to see and take advantage of. Priority must be given to the development of agricultural value chains and agro-allied industries that process and add value. This will allow them to become more competitive in global value chains, raise incomes for their farmers, instead of being stuck at the bottom of global value chains.
The report specifically pointed out that Africa’s food and beverage markets are projected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. By way of comparison, the current size of the market is $313 billion, offering the prospect of a three-fold increase, bringing more jobs, greater prosperity, less hunger, and significantly more opportunity enabling African farmers to compete globally.
To achieve this, the report calls for concerted effort to boost productivity “Africa’s agriculture and agribusinesses are underperforming. Many developing countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Thailand now export more food products than all of Sub-Saharan Africa combined. Even as export shares are falling, import of food products is rising. The report argues that these adverse trends can be reversed through good policies, sustained public-private investment, and strong public-private partnerships backed by open, transparent procedures and processes along the entire value chain.”
The report further called for renewed efforts to purposely take advantage of untapped land and water resources to improve productivity. Africa has more than half of the world’s fertile yet unused land. Similarly, farmers in the continent use only two percent of its renewable water resources compared to the global average of five percent. Post-harvest losses run 15 to 20 percent for cereals and are higher for perishable products due to poor storage and other farm infrastructure.
While pointing to the need for significant investment in infrastructure, the report carries an unequivocal warning: in the rush to allocate land for agribusiness, care needs to be taken so that acquisitions do not threaten people’s livelihoods and land purchases or leases are conducted according to ethical and socially responsible standards, including recognizing local users’ rights, holding consultations with local communities, and paying fair market-rate compensation for land acquired.
The report took an in-depth look at entire value chains – the process for taking products from farms to markets – for five commodities, rice, maize, cocoa, dairy and green beans. Africa is the world’s leading importer and consumer of rice, paying US$3.5 billion for import bills. By increasing rice production, Senegal can help meet local demand but more capital is needed together with greater investment in irrigation and easing restrictions on access to land.
“Improving Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness sectors means higher incomes and more jobs. It also allows Africa to compete globally. Today, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand each export more food products than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. This must change,” says Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region.
The report pointed to the Success Story of Kenya-one of many countries who have made a deliberate, collective effort to make the most of agriculture through apt policies.
“Although much of Eastern and Southern Africa is well suited to dairy production, only Kenya has established a competitive dairy industry. Kenya’s industry is based partly on a formal sector for processed milk and other dairy products, but its dynamic informal sector (based mostly on raw milk) is even more important, supplying over 80 percent of the market. Kenya’s success largely comes from the entrepreneurship of smallholders’ who choose high milk-yielding cross-bred cattle, improved feeds and paid better attention to animal health. Also, Kenya success points to the importance of improving linkages to the formal sector through cooperative milk collection and milk cooling centers. Even though challenges remain government policy, especially flexibility in setting quality and safety standards for the informal chain were vital.”
Looking Ahead, The report says agriculture and agribusiness should be at the top of the development and business agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa. Strong leadership and commitment from both public and private sectors is needed. For success, engaging with strategic “good practice” investors is critical, as is the need for strengthening of safeguards, land administration systems, and screening investments for sustainable growth. Concluding on an upbeat note, the report says Africa can draw on many local successes to guide governments and investors toward positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.
DEDUCTIONS FOR GHANA
For Ghana, the salient points are many. But perhaps the one that is most palpable is ‘potential’. Ghana has eye-catching potential that is yet to be fully tapped.
The country’s untapped potential in agriculture is an assuring reminder that with a little more intentional hard work, we can accelerate our ascent to the top; where the transformative impact of policy driven agriculture will incite unprecedented development for Ghana.
If Ghana needs inspiration in this regard, the express rise of South American country, Brazil is proof that deliberate policies are effective in transforming the fortunes of economies through agriculture.
Approximately two decades ago Brazil made a commitment to prioritise her agricultural sector through the strengthening of fundamental structures that hinged on legislative policies.
Brazil’s publicised transition from a country with an underdeveloped agricultural sector to one of the world’s breadbasket is an incredible feat that demonstrates how much of an impact a country can achieve through a deliberate effort to revolutionise agriculture through deliberate policy formulation.
While a national approach to agricultural excellence was key to getting the country this far, the country’s success is also attributable to the significant improvement in productivity made possible through the development of farming inputs relevant to the countries unique ecosystem.
Though the country’s arable landmass has remained unchanged since the mid 1970’s, production has soared by as much as 300% -a rate believed to be faster than that recorded by other agriculturally successful nations like the United States and China.
As Ghana looks to rapidly grow her agriculture sector, the example of how Brazil transitioned from an unknown quantity to a world power-house is both inspiring and full of lessons that must be internalised. From a Ghanaian perspective, what makes the Brazilian story interesting is that only a few decades ago, the South American country had an agriculture sector that was literally on life-support.
Crucially, Ghana can ill-afford to sidestep the apparent lessons deducible from the start-point of the Brazilian success story. It is instructive to note that the country decided to create the now hugely successful Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation which led the way in creating and implementing an ambitious national agricultural development blueprint responsible for the accelerated growth of one of the world’s biggest agricultural nations.
For Ghana, the signs are encouraging. ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and its allied modules have yielded significant results-with a genuine potential for even more. The seething expectation of stakeholders is therefore focused on seeing the policy advance sustainably to incite a rapid renaissance that the country’s conspicuous potential has suggested since time immemorial.