January 30, 2023

Agricultural Transformation: Optimism As African leaders Share Experiences at Dakar 2 Summit

African heads of states/Ministers sharing experiences from their respective countries at the second heads of states panel

African heads of state at the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Summit in Dakar last week, pooled their knowledge about how they’ve succeeded in developing their countries’ agricultural sector.

Thirty-four African heads of state attended the summit, where they highlighted how investments were essential to ensuring food security for their citizens and creating jobs for women and young people.

Ethiopia has provided a text-book example of how to transform its agricultural sector. The country has doubled its agricultural budget over the past four years and today the country has achieved food self-sufficiency in wheat and now wants to export it to the region.

According to its Minister in charge of planning, Festa Masefa, Ethiopia now has one  million hectares irrigated for the dry season and can now harvest wheat in 90 days. The country has invested in mechanization, securing land for farmers, and has implemented a policy of organizing producers grouped into cooperatives.

Although Ethiopia is leading the way the leaders demonstrated that several other African countries were making a big difference to transforming their agricultural sectors.

President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo said agriculture in his country had made a paradigm shift since 2019. The agriculture budget has been doubled enabling DRC to invest heavily in cassava production. This now accounts for 10% of all the bread baked in the country and saves the central African nation about $10-20 million dollars in wheat imports.

He said that the Congo had identified eight sites where agro-industrial processing zones would be developed and he concluded: “ The Democratic Republic of Congo is on the move.”

Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo told a similar success story.

“Guinea Bissau is a small economy but with the support of the international community, in particular the African Development Bank, we are building a more intense agricultural policy. By 2025, we will manage to increase our rice yields, which is a staple food like cassava and sweet potato.”

In Burundi, President Evariste Ndayishumiye is also optimistic that his country is on the right track:

“The fight against hunger and poverty”, he says, “is a noble fight that is easy to win if we are together and determined.”

He explained how the use of fertilizers, an important element in transforming agriculture, have increased by 70%, and a National Economic Development Bank for young farmers and female farmers to give support to farmers who don’t have bank guarantees.

Burundi still lacks processing, conservation and marketing capacity, but its President Evariste Ndayishumiye remains optimistic that his country is on the right track.

That track towards agricultural transformation and food security is shared by the Central African Republic’s President Faustin Archange Touadéra. His country provides free fertilizer to cotton producers which contributes strongly to the country’s GDP:

“We believe that within a few years we will reach six million hectares of agricultural exploitation,” Touadéra said.

All of this will require investment as Morocco’s head of government Aziz Akhannouch, revealed when he shared the results of its “Green Morocco Plan” which had benefitted from a $13 billion investment over the past decade. This has led to a 5% growth in the country’s agricultural sector. Now Morocco is launching a new program called “Green Generation” which will improve the employability of young people by giving them a million hectares to develop for agriculture:

“For us, investment is at the heart of the equation”, commented Mr Akhannouch, “it includes seeds, mechanization, fertilizers, land, training, research. This is the most important if we want to have productivity and added value.”

In Gabon, Prime Minister Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda is pursuing a business-friendly climate to attract investors.

“An orientation law has been put in place which stipulates that to access the local market, 50% of agricultural products must be local,”she told the Summit. “The objective being to ensure that the contribution of the agricultural sector in the formation of GDP goes from 5% to 20% and that imports are reduced by 50%”.

In addition to food imports, inflation is another challenge for Comoros’ Prime Minister Bianrifi Tharmidhi. He told the Summit that he was committed to implementing several solutions to curb the inflation of food and cash crops: “We have mobilized more than 30 million euros to develop the agricultural sector.”

All the heads of states who shared their agricultural transformation stories expressed optimism that their countries were on the right track to self-sufficiency. They also accepted that there were still many challenges ahead as Africa continues to contend with the aftermath of Covid-19, climate change and the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine conflict on global grain exports.