This blog is a recap of the session on “Feed Africa: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture Sector” at the IGD Fall Frontier 100 Forum in Washington, D.C.
Moderator: Alan Kasujja, Presenter, Newsday | BBC News
- The Honorable Dr. Dogo Seck, Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture | Republic of Senegal
- Kapil Kapoor, Ag. Vice President for Sector Operations | African Development Bank
- Dr. Beth Dunford, Assistant to the Administrator, Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future | USAID
- Morgan Nzwere, CEO | SeedCo Limited
- Gavin Dalgleish, Group Managing Director | Illovo Sugar Ltd.
- Nii Simmonds, Trade, Diaspora and Agribusiness Entrepreneurship | World Bank Group
“Farming is a business.” This key phrase was often repeated during the “Feed Africa panel” at the Frontier 100 Forum. This session featured a panel of experts who discussed how to transform Africa’s agriculture sector from largely subsistence farming into a business that generates wealth and diversifies economies.
For a room full of a cross section of government officials, international organizations, development agencies, and IGD private sector leaders, treating agriculture as a business means moving beyond the traditional approach to agriculture, where the focus is primarily food security. In contrast, agriculture is approached as a profitable business opportunity.
Kapil Kapoor, Acting Vice President for Sector Operations at the African Development Bank (AfDB), spoke about how previous AfDB interventions targeted barriers limiting agribusiness productivity, but the new approach includes thinking holistically about the entire value chain.
Mr. Kapoor’s perspective aligns closely with the IGD Advisory team’s partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation on the issue of post-harvest loss reduction. Throughout the Yieldwise initiative, agribusiness leaders across the continent have provided insight into how the bottom line of their business is affected by crop losses.
Panelists offered four key suggestions for re-framing the way business opportunities in agriculture:
Better communicate actual costs of broken linkages and inefficient value chains.
Morgan Nzwere, CEO of SeedCo, cautioned that “the word ‘expense’ is relative.” The calculations of farmers and other business actors do not take into account the costs incurred by harvesting reduced yields as a product of inferior inputs. Similarly, losses occurring from poor storage and handling practices are not often visible at the end of the value chain. Demonstrating actual costs and loss of investments can build sensitivity to areas where value is being lost and target new business opportunities for additional growth.
Build partnerships across the private sector.
Multinational or large-sized companies have an opportunity to share knowledge about value chain requirements or steps toward value addition in the form of technical assistance, marketing advice and improved business practices to improve the capacity of local SMEs. Companies can benefit from these partnerships by reducing recruitment costs and building their pipeline of qualified and trusted producers and employees. With more companies looking for consistent, reliable sources for their product, even small scale value chains hold potential for high-end products and successful backward integration operations.
Think entrepreneurially along the whole value chain.
Experienced farmers are increasingly moving beyond subsistence farming and new farmers are entering into the agriculture space because of greater opportunities in agribusiness. Successful smallholder farmers are competing commercially by operating collectively to aggregate sufficient volumes to meet demand and diversify their crops and offerings. Similarly, entrepreneurs are applying innovations in mobile applications, energy, financial products, transportation, and storage to the agriculture sector. While agriculture operators need to be supported by appropriate financial products, many are making significant investments in their business and are motivated to pursue opportunities because they have “skin in the game”.
Call on political leaders to act regionally.
Bolstering market access is a key incentive for farmers and entrepreneurs who have achieved improved yields. Restricting access to markets beyond national borders often deprives farmers of the returns from investments and improved practices, especially when they are forced to sell at government controlled prices. Panelists agreed that political will needs to be built to expand regional integration because governments are still largely focused on their domestic market.