African leaders reaffirmed their commitment to transforming the agricultural sector across the continent at the 2014 Grow Africa Investment Forum, taking place in Abuja, Nigeria, in the lead-up to the World Economic Forum on Africa, which started today.
Building on recent successes of the Grow Africa partnership – a joint initiative of the African Union Commission, the NEPAD Agency and the World Economic Forum – the leaders agreed that increased private sector investment in agriculture is key to delivering economic opportunity and food security within their countries.
“There are huge opportunities in agriculture. This will create jobs and achieve food security,” said Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of Nigeria. “The key is not just producing enough food for local consumption, but also creating jobs along the value chain,” he added.
“For years, Africa’s agriculture was marked by low productivity, low production,” noted Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania. Thanks to an agriculture transformation based on a blueprint started at the World Economic Forum on Africa in 2010 in Dar es Salaam, he said his country is seeing dividends. As a result, “hunger can be overcome, and increased income reduces poverty.”
In 2013, Grow Africa partners doubled their commitments for agriculture and food security to $7.2 billion. Of this, $970 million is already invested, which has led to the creation of 33,000 new jobs and assistance to 2.6 million smallholder farmers throughout the continent. The increase in committed funding is captured in the recently published Grow Africa Annual Report.
“We have made some progress on the ground,” said Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. He said this is largely due to investments in land management, seed quality, technology, water management and other factors, including the important role of smallholder farmers.
As an African-owned and country-led platform, Grow Africa works to catalyse increased and inclusive investment and multistakeholder partnership in the agriculture sector, in line with African countries’ Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) plans.
Grow Africa is currently operating in nine Partner Countries in Africa: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania. At the meeting, Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, announced that his country will join the partnership as the 10th member.
One priority area that was identified for future action was the issue of gender parity. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson, African Union, said: “We are not seeing women emerging as entrepreneurs with increased income: how can you increase production if you do not involve the 50% of women who are our farmers?”
Also at the Grow Africa Investment Forum, Grow Africa and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, signed a cooperation agreement to implement projects on the ground with the aim of doubling the incomes of at least 25,000 smallholder families by leveraging more.
The 24th World Economic Forum on Africa will be held in Abuja, Nigeria, on 7-9 May 2014. The theme of the meeting is Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs.