Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Zuma calls for Africa Agri-forum

President Jacob Zuma yesterday called for the creation of a ‘Conference of African Agriculture Ministers’ saying such a forum would fight hunger and poverty by facilitating agribusiness investment opportunities.

Africa’s agricultural sector is beginning to emerge as one of the sectors that will buffer African economies against the global downturn.

And given the challenges presented by the global financial crisis, and the growing threat of food security, Zuma urged the ministers to remain committed to the Maputo Declaration, which requires governments to spend at least 10% of public expenditure to agricultural development. Currently, only 10 countries in the African Union allocate more than 10% of their budget to agriculture.

Zuma’s focus on agriculture is in line with other leaders who have identified the potential of this sector to lift Africa out of poverty.

In their 2009 Economic Outlook Report, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa singled out agricultural investment as the most important area for Africa’s development. The private sector is also seeing the opportunities that the sector holds. For example, the Danish Government, through its Africa Commission, launched a project in May 2009 to target private sector investment in agriculture

According to the Commission, if Africa processed 650,000 metric tonnes of cashews it would create 1,000 new businesses, 250,000 new jobs and an extra $150 million in annual revenue.

There are others, however, who argue that prioritising agricultural production will only cement Africa’s already weak terms of trade in the global market. The key, however, is to implement fair land distribution programmes since land tenure is a huge issue in Africa, improve rural infrastructure and integrate the agricultural sector with other sectors such as manufacturing in order to generate job creation and broad-based growth.

At the 13th Ordinary Session of the African Union summit this week, Zuma called for integrated African agricultural value chains that would link up with the global marketing system. This is a positive recognition of what needs to be done to ensure Africa’s agricultural potential is harnessed effectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment