WINDHOEK – The world’s burgeoning population needs to be fed and Africa is well positioned to do so. We have enough resources to feed not just ourselves but other regions too. We must seize this opportunity now.
This message is contained in the just released Africa Progress Report 2015, headed by Kofi Anan. Anan says Africa’s productivity levels, already beginning to increase, could easily double within five years. Indeed, small holder farmers, most of them women, have repeatedly proven how innovative and resilient they can be. “So why are they not yet thriving? The unacceptable reality is that too many African farmers still use methods handed from generation to generation, working their lands or grazing their animals much as their ancestors have done for millennia.”
“Africa may be showing impressive headline growth, but too many of our people remain stuck in poverty. This year’s Africa Progress Report finds that if we want to accelerate Africa’s transformation, then we have to significantly boost our agriculture and fisheries, which together provide livelihoods for roughly two-thirds of all Africans,” he observes.
He says if Africa wants to extend the recent economic successes of the continent to the vast majority of its inhabitants, then we must end the neglect of our farming and fishing communities. The time has come to unleash Africa’s green and blue revolutions. “These revolutions will transform the face of our continent for the better. Beyond the valuable jobs and opportunities they will provide, such revolutions will generate a much-needed improvement to Africa’s food and nutrition security. More than anything, malnutrition on our continent is a failure of political leadership. We must address such debilitating failure immediately,” says he.
“Africa’s farmers and fishers are equal to the challenge, but they need the opportunity. They need their governments to demonstrate more ambition on their behalf. African governments must now scale up the appropriate infrastructure and ensure that financial systems are accessible for all.”
“When farmers access finance – credit, savings, insurance – they can insure themselves against risks such as drought, and invest more effectively in better seeds, fertilizers and pest control. With access to decent roads and storage, farmers can get their harvests to market before they rot in the fields. Trade barriers and inadequate infrastructure are preventing our farmers from competing effectively. They are being told to box with their hands tied behind their backs,” he notes.
Africa’s food import bill is worth US$35 billion (some N$240 billion), excluding fish, every year. “Investing in infrastructure will certainly be expensive. But at least some of the costs of filling Africa’s massive infrastructure financing gap could be covered if the runaway plunder of Africa’s natural resources is brought to a stop. Across the continent, this plunder is prolonging poverty amidst plenty. It has to stop, now. Last year’s Africa Progress Report showed how illicit financial flows, often connected to tax evasion in the extractives industry, cost our continent more than it receives in either international aid or foreign investment,” says Anan.
“This year’s report shows how Africa is also losing billions to illegal and shadowy practices in fishing and forestry. We are storing up problems for the future. While personal fortunes are consolidated by a corrupt few, the vast majority of Africa’s present and future generations are being deprived of the benefits of common resources that might otherwise deliver incomes, livelihoods and better nutrition. If these problems are not addressed, we are sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest,” he further observes.
“Global collective action is needed to nurture transparency and accountability. In the year since our last report was published, notable action has been taken on beneficial ownership, tax avoidance and evasion, and resource revenues. Further technical and financial support to African governments will also help reduce the illicit flows of timber, fish and money,” he notes adding that “With the same goals in mind, such action must be extended to the major international commodity traders, who play a critical role in African markets, from coffee through to oil. Too often these powerful and globally influential traders have been overlooked by national and international regulation.”
“We have a common interest in the success of these endeavours. African forests help the world to breathe. Along with African waters, they safeguard the priceless biodiversity of planet Earth. Africa’s fish and other harvests can help feed an expanding global population. And we all benefit from an Africa that is prosperous, stable and fair.”
“Foreign investors are increasingly choosing Africa as a lucrative opportunity, and pouring money into agribusiness. At best these investments bring jobs, finance and critical knowhow. At worst, they deprive African people of their land and water. African governments must regulate these investments and use them to Africa’s advantage. Agreements between African governments and business have to be mutually beneficial,” says Anan adding that Africans overseas are also transferring significant sums of money into Africa, but remittance charges are unethically expensive. This overcharging impacts even more negatively on rural communities. Remitting US$1,000 to Africa costs US$124 compared with a global average of US$78 and US$65 for South Asia.
He says unleashing Africa’s green and blue revolutions may seem like an uphill battle, but several countries have begun the journey. In these countries, farmers are planting new seeds, using fertilizer and finding buyers for their harvests. Impressive innovation and smart government policies are changing age-old farming ways.
“Mobile technology allows farmers to leapfrog directly to high productivity. Young entrepreneurs mix agriculture with 21st century global markets. Africa’s resilience, creativity, and energy continue to impress. These qualities are critical to our green and blue revolutions, upon which Africa’s future will depend,” he concludes.