Agriculture is the engine driving many African countries

Two thirds of Africans depend on farming for their livelihood. The sector`s potential is enormous. The World Bank has estimated that African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $ 1 trillion in 2030.

However, agriculture is not attractive for African youth. To be a farmer is regarded as backbreaking, hard labour in the fields with meagre benefits. They have seen their parents, poor with ragged clothing, using old- fashioned equipment, always short of fertilizers and other inputs to survive. Farming is for the elderly and poor in rural areas

The upcoming generation of young people, often poor and irrelevant education, prefer to settle in urban areas in search of employment there.

If agriculture were to get the same political support and financial investment as mining sector, agriculture would be capable of providing more jobs with decent income. Reforms have to be introduced to mechanize and produce the agriculture more efficiently.

Urban people are often fed by imported food, which undermines domestic agriculture. Africa imports $ 34 bn of food annually, but could easily feed itself if agricultural productivity improved. Africa need to add more value to its natural resources before being exported.

The need to reverse decades of policy neglect and to increase investment in African agriculture is widely recognized. Some critics, however, argue that large-scale investment can marginalize Africa`s small scale farmers and open up for increased land grabbing by international companies with little understanding of local land rights

Some agricultural economists emphasise the potentials for a full range of investment options for promoting agricultural development as collaboration between small-, medium-, and large-scale players.

Foreign investment in agriculture is no necessarily “land grabbing”. The main reason why international land rush to Africa is providing bad news for rural people has to do with the complete failure of governance and lack of control of the decision making process. Large land deals are signed over the heads of local people, while greedy politicians are concerned getting their share of the investment.

Job creation for young people is more about political leadership and political will than about shortage of funds. When Asian countries were poor as African countries to-day, they decided to change their economies, starting with smallholder agriculture.

To invest in agriculture could benefit food security at both global and national level. But incentives and good policies need to be in place to attract young people to farming.

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One Response to Agriculture is the engine driving many African countries

  1. I have often wondered why IMF and the World bank up through the years have discouraged countries like Zambia to subsidize agriculture, in fact they have normally put it as a condition to give loans that they should remove subsidizes. This becomes strange when it is well known that Governments in developed countries do give a lot of support to their farmers, very often heavily subsidized. You would think that there would be even more need for this in Africa and developing countries, so that they would get up a better production base. Instead the opposite is a fact, as there is no import protection, and subsidized being denied. Can anybody explain why cause I am sure there must be a good reason which I do not know!?

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