Underwriting Africa’s future through Agriculture

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It is now widely recognized by experts and policy makers that agriculture will underwrite Africa’s promising growth prospects; that the dream of Africa rising can actually fly on the wings of the sector’s vast untapped potential across the continent.

With 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land and low crop yields, the prediction that Africa is ripe for a green revolution is no longer a far-fetched ambition.

But a litany of barriers hinders Africa’s agricultural production potential. From a lack of advanced seeds and other inputs suited to the continent’s ecological conditions to inadequate infrastructure to bring crops to market, the complexities of achieving a ‘green revolution’ are well known and documented.

An economic review of the agricultural sector by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in Kenya reveals that in Africa today, seventy percent of the population derives their livelihood from Agriculture.

In Kenya, the agricultural sector contributes close to 26 percent of the country’s GDP and employs about 75 percent of the population. The sector is also a major source of revenue with agricultural produce exports accounting for nearly two thirds of total domestic export.

Rallying support in this sector holds the key to securing the future of a majority of livelihoods in the country through improved living standards.

It is paramount that that we gear all efforts and resources to boost the agriculture sector, according it the high priority it deserves.

The Malabo Declarations that we committed to back in 2014 are aimed at pursuing a future of prosperity with agriculture forefront, by doubling agricultural productivity by 2025. Skeptics have been quick to throw cold water on these targets. But the numbers are achievable.

The Mckinsey Institute predicts that if Africa could overcome the barriers, agriculture output could increase from USD 280 billion per year today to as much as USD 880 billion by 2030.

Achieving growth of this magnitude might sound ambitious yet this transformation has been witnessed in Asia and Brazil. The resulting impact across the Africa’s agricultural value chain would lead to an increased demand for upstream products such as fertilizers, seeds and pesticides, while spurring growth of downstream activities such as grain refining, biofuels and other types of food processing.

Collectively, Mckinsey estimates that the sector could be worth an additional USD 275 billion in revenue by 2030.
We are therefore at a crucial point in time where we need to move beyond words to the actual implementation of our big dreams and plans to see transformative change in this sector.

Government & Private Sector

Recently in Kenya, the government committed to investing Kshs 2 billion in the next five years that will benefit young farmers and entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. This outlay will allow them to access markets, enjoy the security of insurance, improve their access to modern agricultural technologies and increase value addition.
The significance of such government led initiatives cannot be underestimated. Yet at the same time, we should bear in mind that the government would be hard pressed to drive a green evolution while working in isolation. The private sector will have to stand and be counted.

Youth & Technology

Our population today is dominated by the youth whose role in building our economy correlates with the optimal use of technology. Agriculture goes beyond working on the farm, planting seeds and harvesting when time is due.

Today, Agriculture exists in the realm of technology, more so on mobile platforms. The constituents of the agriculture value chain from the farmer to the consumer, play different significant roles all geared towards one main objective; a sustainable sector.

Technology handily offers farmers access to information on the most efficient farm inputs, retailers receive information on where to purchase stock and consumers acquire information on what to buy and where to buy depending on their personalized preferences. With best practice in technology for farming, we can save on resources and ensure maximization of outputs.
Mind Shift
Regrettably, a majority of the population still view agriculture primarily for subsistence farming. Though this is not ideal. But an opportunity duly presents itself and this is where all players can step in.

Education and awareness will dispel this mentality from the minds of the population, opening their eyes to the great benefits that are made possible through the commercialization of the sector.

We must play our role in helping the masses see agriculture as a source of job creation and most importantly wealth creation for individuals, the country and the African continent.

This mind renewal is our only hope in promoting the sustainable productivity and success of the agricultural sector, consequently offering dignity to the lives of the masses by elevating their quality of life.

The just concluded African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which saw heads of state and other dignitaries gather together to discuss their achievements and plans for the future, is a great example of how agriculture in Africa will establish our motherland as the next frontier for investments and take us a step further in achieving our dreams.

The writer is the KCB Group CEO and MD

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