African Ministers and private sector leaders offer insights on the panel, “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness”.
ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE – December 6, 2017 – African Finance and Agriculture Ministers and private sector leaders convened for the African Development Bank’s first high-level convening of the Leadership4Agriculture (L4Ag) Forum to pave a way forward in spurring the continent’s agricultural transformation on November 28 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
The invitation-only L4Ag Forum, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) and Grow Africa was held at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The event was held on the sidelines of the AU-EU Summit, which took place on November 29-30.
More than 150 public and private sector leaders gathered for dialogue, advocacy and policy action to drive Africa’s agriculture transformation on the theme, “Leadership for Agriculture: Moving African Policy to Action”. African Ministers from Cote d’Ivoire, the Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Seychelles, Ghana, Uganda, Gambia, and Chad were in attendance at the forum.
In a keynote address, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, told forum attendees that, more than ever before, governments and private sector must work together to rapidly modernize agriculture in Africa to reach its full potential.
“To transform its agriculture, Africa needs to make a decisive decision to develop new agrarian systems, one that combines smallholder farmers with a new dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers,” said Dr. Adesina.
President Adesina challenged African agriculture leaders to become global food producers and move away from importing foods that the continent should be producing, emphasizing that Africa sits on 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.
African countries currently spend $35 billion annually on food imports and if current trends continue the continent will spend some $110 billion annually by 2030 on food imports. “There is absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food-importing region,” said Adesina. “Africa has huge potentials in agriculture, but nobody eats potential!”
The AfDB President encouraged African leaders to develop new agrarian systems that combine smallholder farmers with a dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers.
Mamadou Biteye, managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office, agreed, noting that “strong and decisive” leadership and partnerships are required to achieve a greater impact in ensuring Africa’s food security, creating jobs and mobilizing investments in the agriculture sector.
The Rockefeller Foundation conceived the Leadership4Agriculture Forum during its 2013 centennial celebrations, where an unprecedented gathering of finance and agriculture leaders from over 20 African countries convened to identify concrete ways to work together and strengthen African agricultural markets and value chains to benefit economies.
“African governments need to be talking and integrating action,” asserted Biteye. He implored governments to draw in the private sector, “so they cease shying away from the sector due to the perception of agriculture being risky, and make greater investment.”
Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych, president and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development reiterated the essential role of the private sector in delivering fundamental change in the agriculture sector.
“Agriculture is a business,” said Nedelcovych. “For far too long, agriculture has been approached largely as a development issue, and Africa’s born- and bred private sector was not actively sought out to be part of the long-term strategy for their country’s agricultural transformation.”
IGD collaborated, in partnership with the AfDB and Rockefeller Foundation, in the planning, execution and outreach to the African private sector for the L4Ag Forum.
By bringing together private sector leaders with high-level African officials to drive action and growth in Africa’s agriculture sector, Nedelcovych said the forum aimed to push for a market-led approach to agriculture.
Moderated by BBC presenter Alan Kasujja, a panel of Ministers and private sector leaders discussed and put forth solutions and strategies on transforming Africa’s agriculture by improving the regulatory environment, enhancing access to improved agricultural inputs and commercializing agriculture during panel sessions.
The forum panel sessions — “Enabling the Business of Agriculture: Increasing Access to Agricultural Inputs to Enhance Productivity and Regulatory Reforms” and “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness” — were guided by recently-released reports by the World Bank’s 2017 Enabling the Business of Agriculture Report and the 2017 Africa Transformation Report by African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET).
Joost W. van Odijk of Grow Africa outlined to forum attendees the Country Agribusiness Partnership Frameworks or CAP-F, a tool that sets policy reforms in motion through cross-sectoral engagements to improve efficiency in the agribusiness value chains and to attract private sector investments.
During the public-private action roundtable sessions, African high-level government officials and business leaders reviewed policy and sub-indicators from the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and brainstormed their aligned interests and achievable goals in reaching policy indicators. The breakout sessions also explored investment opportunities in agribusiness ventures. CAADP is a policy framework for agricultural transformation, food security and nutrition, and advancing country-led economic growth in Africa.
Nedelcovych encouraged attendees to take the wealth of knowledge and bold strategies gained at the forum to build momentum for Africa’s agricultural transformation.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity to work together and deepen public-private sector collaborations and investment in agriculture to harness its full potential and contribute to accelerating the continent’s economic growth,” said Nedelcovych. “We all must be champions for agriculture!”
An action-oriented outcomes report highlighting forum sessions and actions from the public-private sector roundtables will be will be produced in early-January.