Africa will require more than $400 billion in the next decade to be food secure, a feat it will have to work hard to achieve.
A report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) says that African countries that have embraced agriculture have seen growth in food production, nutrition and GDP.
The report, launched during the Agra 2016 Food Forum in Nairobi and titled Progress towards an Agriculture Transformation of sub-Saharan Africa shows that annual public investments in the sector have risen significantly across Africa, from an average per country of $186.4 million in 2003 to $219.6 million in 2014.
Agra president Agnes Kalibata said that despite the slow growth in public and private investment in the continent’s agricultural sector, the past 10 years have made a strong case for agriculture as the surest path to producing sustainable economic growth that is felt among poor Africans.
“The track record is far from perfect. Many governments face significant budget constraints and far too many farming families continue to lack basic inputs, like improved seeds or fertilisers. But the evidence is clear. When we invest in our farmers and in the all the things they need to succeed, good things happen across the economy,” Ms Kalibata said, adding that the continent’s food-import deficit stands at $35 billion annually, with Nigeria accounting for about $12 billion, the highest food import bill in Africa.
Chiji Ojukwu, director of the Agriculture and Agro-industry Department at the African Development Bank (AfDB), said that African governments need to achieve zero per cent importation of food in Africa.
“We need to reach a level where we are agriculturally dependent on ourselves. We cannot import food forever. However, if this isn’t reversed, then in the next decade we expect to see agricultural food imports hit $110 billion,” said Dr Ojukwu.
On a positive note, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso are among the countries that have recorded agricultural productivity growth, hence reducing their poverty levels.
“Agriculture has had its biggest impact in countries that moved quickly to embrace the African Union’s 2003 Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). A key component of CAADP was its call for governments to allocate 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture and to aim for six per cent annual growth in the sector.
So far, only 13 African countries have met or surpassed their pledge to invest at least 10 per cent of public funds in agriculture.
Countries that sat on the sidelines saw their farm productivity only increase by three per cent and GDP rise by only 2.2 per cent,” the report says.
David Ameyaw, head of monitoring and evaluation at Agra, said that with agriculture now at the top of Africa’s development agenda, foundations have been laid for the sector to quickly deliver benefits to the broader economy.
“Many farmers have more options in the seeds they plant, in the fertilisers they use, and in the markets available for their produce, due to intense private sector participation in several agriculture-based initiatives,” said Mr Ameyaw.
However, Africa remains the world’s most food insecure continent, with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity, low rural incomes, high rates of malnutrition and a worsening food trade balance.