Africa Poverty Reduction Hinged On Agro-Investment

Africa Poverty Reduction Hinged On Agro-Investment

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While the rest of the World has been experiencing economic slowdown, African economies have remained resilient but this fact has not helped in poverty reduction.

Even though Africa has not suffered the same economic slowdown as other nations, its own growth has not translated to improved lives for the people. There has been considerable increased revenue gained by African nations through oil, gas and minerals over the last few years that has helped stave economic slowdown for Africa.

Unfortunately this revenue has not been broad-based which in other words, the income from these resources has not contributed to poverty reduction. This fact has led to economists to rethink reinvestment in the African context.

One would have expected that since the continent has not had crippling economic slowdown, then the lives of the people would also reflect this fact but, it has not. Africa seems to be suffering the same curse as all other capitalistic economies, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Economic slowdown or not, wealth distribution in Africa spatial, a few garner the bigger chunk of the national income while the majority squatter in poverty. This should be food for thought for African policy makers.

In the period of economic slowdown globally, had Africa taken its revenue from other sectors and dedicated it to reinvestment in Agriculture, a sector that employs two-thirds of Africans, then it would have resulted in job provision, income and food security for the majority.

Reinvestment in agriculture has enormous multiplier effect for the continent since the sector alone accounts for a third of the continent’s GDP. Actually in countries like Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Liberia, agriculture accounts for 50-60% of their GDP, all the reason for reinvestment in agriculture.

The potential for economic transformation and widespread development is huge if only policy makers in Africa choose to prioritize reinvestment in agriculture. However, the unfortunate truth is that most African countries do not give reinvestment in agriculture the attention it needs. For this reason, even though, overall, African economies seem to be doing well on paper on the ground the people remain poor.

“Unless this is addressed, Africa will face enormous challenges in achieving its goal of poverty eradication,” warn researchers in a study called ‘Ripe for Change: The promise of Africa’s agricultural transformation.’

With worsening global climate change and ongoing geopolitical strife, the need for greater investment and reinvestment in African agriculture is now ever so urgent.

Global climate change has left farmers facing ever mounting challenges ranging from floods, land degradation, droughts and ever worsening change in weather patterns. The situation is made worse by the rapid population growth and which all serve to emphasize the need for increased agricultural productivity.

As a result of global climate change, returns on investment in agriculture have been minimal and a total loss in some cases which has resulted in retarded socioeconomic gains. With global climate change in mind, especially since Africa is for the first time hosting the global climate change meeting COP27, then it is imperative that Africa invests in modern agriculture technologies.

To combat climate change and to mitigate its effects, Africa must adopt modern agriculture technologies, machine innovations and engineering for resilient crop varieties. Modern agriculture technologies help to manage farmers’ risks and even improve product quality which in turn brings about better prices.

Also, when it comes to modern agriculture technologies, there is renewed attention towards value addition, agro-processing and post-harvest management. These factors add to the need for increased investment in agriculture because they all translate to increased income and creation of employment opportunities.

This brings us to the question of funding. Where are countries supposed to get the money to invest in agriculture? To answer this question, African countries, almost all 55 of them, signed the 2003 Maputo Declaration, pledging to dedicate 10% of their annual budget to agriculture, but to date, few have done so.

Should African countries live up to the Maputo Declaration then they would be able to fund modern agriculture technologies. The few countries that have dedicated themselves to meeting the Maputo Declaration have already shown how successful effective investment in the sector can lead to growth and poverty reduction.

The Maputo Declaration is actually the road to poverty eradication in Africa especially since the sector employees two thirds of the entire continent. For example, thanks to their dedication to the Maputo declaration Ghana and Burkina Faso have seen export-led growth in cocoa and cotton bring about socio-economic development and substantial poverty reduction.

Consider this, poverty rates have decreased by more than 44% in Ghana and by 37% in Burkina Faso, and in the latter country cotton farmers’ incomes have increased by 20-40%, reads the report in part.

Then there is the case of poverty reduction in Ethiopia, a country that has shown sustained political commitment to agriculture and as a result helped improve nutrition by increasing the number of calories that rural people consume by approximately 50%, that means they have doubled the nutrient intake.

‘The 2003 Maputo Declaration recognised the critical link between agricultural growth and economic development and aimed to boost public investment in the sector, with government commitments to allocate at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture, adopt sound agricultural and rural development policies and achieve at least 6% agricultural growth,’ a truly noble goal.

However, since it was signed back in 2003, almost two decades ago, fewer than a fifth of African countries have met either the 10% expenditure or the 6% growth target, the report shows. Worse still, the average share of total public expenditure allocated to the agriculture sector has barely exceeded 6% per year since the Maputo Declaration was signed.

This is true with exception of Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal, which have consistently allocated 10% of their budget to agriculture and as a result enjoy considerable poverty reduction.

Read the original article on The Exchange.

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