Agriculture: Africa’s ‘engine for growth’

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

After decades of economic stagnation and with the number of chronically malnourished people now reaching 200 million, Africa’s leaders are intensifying efforts to find “sustainable solutions” to hunger and poverty.

The main framework for that undertaking is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which emphasizes that “agriculture will provide the engine for growth in Africa.”

The plan is that the high economic growth rates envisaged by NEPAD cannot be realized unless farm production is significantly increased. Higher output will directly reduce hunger and bring down the cost of food imports. It will also have wider economic benefits, from stimulating rural incomes to providing raw materials for African industry. Investing in the reduction of hunger is a moral imperative.

Since the hindrances facing African farmers are numerous, the solutions must be comprehensive, requiring sustained action across many different fronts. Above all, African governments and their external partners must support the labours of Africa’s millions of poor, small-scale farmers.

Where such success stories exist, the challenge facing African leaders will be to find ways to strengthen them and duplicate their experiences in other localities and countries. Where there are few successes to build on, new initiatives and programmes will need to be promoted.

African farmers’ yields have essentially stagnated for decades. Although total output has been rising steadily — often by simply extending the land area under cultivation  this growth has barely kept pace with Africa’s increasing population. Food production in particular has lagged, so that the number of chronically undernourished people increased.

A Guest Editorial