Africa’s potential to create wealth from agriculture

Africa has the potential to create wealth from agricultural activities. For one, the continent is rich in economic resources. It has sunshine, water, and arable land in abundance. But why is Africa food insecure and a leading importer of food? What justification has Africa for being the poorest continent?

I know you’ve your own answers to these questions. In my view, Africa has become its own enemy. We Africans have refused to recognize and give agribusiness (and agriculture) the attention it deserves. Our reluctance to act continues to keep negative narratives around us.

Africa’s Problems

Agriculture can solve Africa’s biggest problems: poverty, migration, unemployment, and dependency on foreign aid and imports.

Poverty

An estimated two-thirds of the global population lives in extreme poverty according to World Vision. These are people surviving on less than $1.9/day. Surprisingly, 40% of this proportion lives in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Migration

Africa is losing its young, energetic population to Europe and the West. More than 90% of young Africans would make a perilous Europe journey to look for new opportunities despite the risks. Unsustainable rural-urban migration is pushing African cities under unprecedented pressures. Africa’s urban population is projected to shoot to 60% by 2050, having increased from 27% in 1950 to 40% in 2015.

Unemployment

Approximately 10.6% of Africans (aged 15 and 24) are unemployed. Africa has the lowest unemployment rate globally for this age range. However, the majority of young Africans (80-95%) work informally. The lack of social safety accompanied by low wages in the formal sector make it difficult for young Africans to move beyond the poverty line. To accommodate young labor market entrants, Sub-Saharan Africa must create 18 million jobs annually until 2035.

Hunger

Africa is food insecure. About 281.6 million of Africa’s 1.2 billion people faced hunger in 2020. That is, 46.3 million more Africans were food insecure in 2020 compared to 2019. Another report shows that between 720 and 811 million people (more than 10% of the global population) went hungry in 2020.

Dependency on food import

Africa imports $35 billion worth of food annually.  

There’s hope

Forget the statistics. If we begin to rethink our destiny, Africa can create wealth from agriculture. Agricultural development is a powerful tool to boost our shared prosperity and end extreme poverty. That’s not fiction. Here are some quick facts.

As I noted earlier, Africa has the resources it needs to solve its own problems. Our continent owns about 65% of the world’s arable land –land that can be used for agricultural production.

If we leverage the abundance of our continent’s agricultural resources, Africa can feed an estimated 9.7 billion people by 2050 through agriculture. That is to say, the world will need Africa to be food secure.

Africa’s agricultural sector has the best potential to bring about fiscal and macro-economic stabilization. The sector has four times the power to reduce poverty and create jobs than any other sector. The growth in Africa’s agriculture sector is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the poorest compared to other sectors. 

Africa is capable of producing 2-3 times more livestock, horticulture crops, grains, and cereals subsequently. If it does, Africa will increase the global grain and cereal production output, which is currently 2.6 billion tons, by 20% –McKinsey & Company report.

So, what’s our key takeaway here? Agriculture as a business is the best hope for Africa.

Main source: African Development Bank Group

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