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Agriculture for Food Self Sufficiency

May 20, 2009, 8:18 AM

Development, they say, is change. Change is caused to happen, it not left to happen.

The relationship between governments in Africa needs to be caused to change.

First of all we should think of the advancement of Africa as a continent. We are in agreement with Ghana's Vice President John Mahama that the continent should foster South-South cooperation by increasing trade between Africa and other nations of the South which face the same challenges as it does.

Speaking at the opening of the 11th Ordinary Session of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) in South Africa, where he was Guest of Honour, Mahama also called for African governments to support farming programmes in order to shield the continent from the ongoing global economic crisis.

In the Ghananian statesman's conclusion Africa can reduce the food import bill through improving production on its farms thereby insulating itself from the global economic crisis which has affected many economies in the West.

His warning that failure to collectively confront the challenge could have drastic effects on the continent should be taken into consideration.

This is an indisputable fact. The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

He said: "A large chunk of our people are in danger of slipping back below the poverty line if we do not collectively strategise to deal with this crisis.

There is no doubt in his words that this crisis poses a danger to Africa but also opens new opportunities for us. "The accompanying food crisis must reveal to us that the abandoned and long suffering African farmer must become a focus of our attention," he added.

We are also in agreement that governments must assist farmers to modernize and increase productivity in order to feed Africa and also contribute to exports.

He said the continent can also shield itself against the crisis through generating its own resources for development by being more cost effective in public financial management, avoiding waste in public expenditure and eliminating corruption, while creating a conducive legal and financial environment for the indigenous private sector to grow.

Mahama said it was high time the African unification project was finalized as this too would help minimize the risks of the global financial crisis on the continent. "The progress on the African unification project has been frustratingly slow", he said. "We have parochially clung to our little flags and national anthems without seeing the advantages a more united Africa offers us. We have restricted the movement of our people in little States, many of which lack the resources or capacity to ensure the full realization of the potential of our people."

He also encouraged governments to put in place programmes to curb the migration of the continent's youths, most of whom die painful deaths in this process of searching for supposed greener pastures.

On the political front, Mahama said free and fair elections have played a key role in "fostering the progress and prosperity of our continent. Our people are tired of the poverty and disease, of the conflict and banditry," added Mahama. "They have come to the realisation that things can only change if they take their destinies into their own hands."

According to him, the era of political dinosaurs who consider their countries as their bona fide property and pillaged the resources for their comfort and a small political elite is now probably over.

"Leaders who have stashed away in foreign banks money equivalent to the entire budget of their countries are becoming a rare breed on the continent. This pleasant wind of change has often been attributed to the so-called new crop of transformational leaders with a vision and determination to lead their people out of poverty into a society of prosperity for all," he asserted.

This transformation, he went on, is the result of the frustration of our people with the abject poverty and squalor that they have had to contend with often in the midst of some of the most valuable and extensive natural resources that can be found anywhere in this world.