Agriculture is Africa’s best opportunity to diversify its economy, improve food security and create jobs, according to the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Durban recently.
How to develop and strengthen the economies of rural Africa was one of the major discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, held in Durban this month.
Agriculture offers Africa the potential to reduce poverty and create jobs, especially in poor rural communities and other areas where jobs are hard to find.
According to WEF, growth in agriculture is 11 times better at reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. With 65 per cent of Africa’s population already working in farming, investment in agriculture will benefit more of the continent’s people.
But poorly maintained roads and other infrastructure are a challenge. For example, it can be more expensive for some African farmers to get their products to a port just 10 kilometres away than it is for European farmers to ship milk across the world.
Today, Africa as a whole has to import agricultural and food products. In the 1960s Africa was an exporter of surplus farming products.
A new vision
In 2009 WEF determined that the world needs sustainable agriculture to deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity. The organisation devised the New Vision for Agriculture, embracing market-based methods to achieve the goal of a 20 per cent improvement every decade to 2050.
Success, WEF reasoned, would depend on good leadership from governments and investment in infrastructure, research and monitoring. The Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), run by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, has driven commitments from African governments to increase funding on agriculture.
The Department of International Relations has pointed out: “Events in Africa and across the world have demonstrated a need for leaders to be responsive to the demands of the people who have entrusted them to lead, and to also provide a vision and a way forward.”
The CAADP has already helped to almost double agricultural trade within Africa. But this still only accounts for 3.5 per cent of the continent’s gross domestic product.
In 2014 members of the African Union signed the Malabo Declaration, which set a target of tripling the trade of agricultural and food products between African countries by 2025.
Bursaries for better skills in agriculture
To fast track rural skills development, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has increased the number of bursaries it offers to students accepted to agricultural colleges.
This was an investment in South Africa’s drive a development agenda of food security and rural wealth creation, Minister Senzeni Zokwana said.
“DAFF has been awarding bursaries since 2004, after introducing an external bursary scheme in response to government’s call to bridge the skills gap, promote rural development and to eliminate skewed participation in South Africa,” the Minister said.
“The scheme is used by DAFF as a skills pipeline to contribute towards the promotion of inclusive economic growth, job creation and food security by ensuring a constant supply of required skilled personnel in the highly competitive fields of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.”