-- Policy makers, academia, researchers and experts from African governments, international organizations and private sector met at IDEP, in Dakar, on October 25, 2017, in a high level round table.
In a panel chaired by Mrs. Karima Bounemra BEN SOLTANE, director of IDEP, the following participants gave a lecture: Dr. Serigne Gueye DIOP, Minister-Counselor of the President of the Republic of Senegal, Mr. Hatem FELLAH, senior agronomist at the Regional Office of the African Development Bank in Dakar, Mr. Malick FAYE, expert in pastoralism at the Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and Dr. Belay Tizazu MENGISTIE, visiting research worker at IDEP. Panel members discussed food security, agricultural and agribusiness development issues at the national and continental levels. Case studies in countries such as Senegal and Ethiopia allowed to discuss these issues through domestic perspectives. Participants showed great interest and made pertinent inputs concerning the urgent need to strengthen public and community institutions, policies and economic operators in order to ensure food security and resilience for Africa.
"Agriculture should be seen as a catalyst for several actions for the attainment of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 goals, in that it should not only feed Africa but also create decent work, in particular for the youth," said Mrs. BEN SOLTANE. Moreover, according to many participants, agriculture present great opportunities in Africa, taking account of the youthfulness of its population, which is considered as a demographic dividend and the fact that only 50% of fertile lands and 2% of water resources are currently used.
According to Mrs. BEN SOLTANE, agricultural policies should reflect the transformative vision of African economies. All African countries have launched their agricultural transformation vision, and Ethiopia is not outdone. One of a participant underscored agricultural policy resilience. In that regard, the Minister-Counselor reassured participants by asserting that as far as Senegal is concerned, policies are formulated over twenty or so years. As set out by Mr. MENGISTIE, in 2011, Ethiopia set up its Agricultural Transformation Agency which was expected to exist for 15 to 20 years. The country also launched its agricultural growth and development plan whose 2016 - 2020 second phase is underway.
According to the director, having visions is not enough, Africa should revive the orthodoxy of a sound development planning, in particular the proper monitoring and evaluation of agricultural policies. "To that end, statistical data which will enable to establish baselines, measure progress and make projections should be focused," she added.
More investments in the sector are needed and fortunately, the current trend towards the increase of innovative investments and new approaches for the development of the agricultural sector is to be fostered. Indeed, "the African Development Bank is aware of the need to develop co-financing partnerships in order to achieve the agricultural sector development goals," declared Mr. FELLAH.
FAO helps the continent to achieve food security by developing programs that focus on the strengthening of the role of value chains, facilitating small-scale farmers access to input and output markets, enabling the sustainable increase of outputs, productions and income, developing synergies and partnerships, increasing agropastoral communities and household resilience.
As for AfDB, it supports the need for agricultural transformation throughout the continent by launching a priority program called "Feed Africa": "The ADB's approach focuses on developing value chains while building on catalysts such as productivity, infrastructure, financing, empowerment and youth employment," added Mr. Hatem FELLAH. According to him, "the bank intends to do more to increase the financing of African agriculture for structural transformation but also will take action in the management of production risks, resilience building, partnerships, etc."
"FAO's actions are underpinned by incentives for the use of sustainable and environmentally sound technologies, proper management of water and land resources, strengthening of innovation and research, reduction of risks, experience sharing, and capacity building," says Dr. Faye.
Harnessing technology for agricultural development is the vocation of African policymakers. Thus, according to Mr. DIOP advisor to the Senegalese Head of State, "Africa needs to rethink the agricultural sector in order to not only meet the challenge of food security but also address the nutritional problems of children and women, and especially supply agricultural products to the industrial sector. The development of the processing industry should be a key objective for the transformation of economies, as the technology enabling to create seed varieties that meet nutritional needs is within easy reach." This is what urged Dr. Diop, mayor of the commune of Sandiara (Senegal), to set up an agropole that can partly supply agricultural product to the industrial pole located in the same area.
Although ensuring food security is one of the most urgent needs, agricultural investments should not be limited to subsistence crops. The development of other agricultural value chains would enable the eradication of poverty by increasing sources of income. Flower-growing is indeed considered as an emerging agricultural sector in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi. Dr. MENGISTIE's findings showed that "Ethiopia identified the flower-growing industry as one of the sectors that can allow it to achieve the ambitious GTP (Growth and Transformation Plan) goals, with the political support and incentives from the government. This sector experienced a great expansion and contributed significantly to the economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities," he said. However, according to him, "if Ethiopia wants to gradually enter the flower market and create more decent jobs, it should necessarily take up the sustainability (use of water resources, pesticides, health and safety of workers, and wages), environment (waste management, water use) challenges and, apply strictness in the enforcement of laws on the use of certain types of chemical fertilizers. This would help not only help the country to maintain the sustainability of its agriculture but also to meet the requirements of Africa 2063 Agenda, and to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030."
Building the capacity of farm operators and training young people and women in order to increase their autonomy and resilience is also essential in the interventions of public and private institutions. "FAO is carrying out several actions aimed at knowledge and experiences sharing among actors and countries and capacity building throughout the implementation of social safety net programs", according to Dr. FAYE. These efforts are also complemented by AfDB actions on risk insurance for producers.
According to Dr. DIOP, "The capacity-building and training programs will enable African economic operators and youth to gain technical skills which are key to the development of entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector and therefore to the continent's eradication of youth unemployment and poverty". He is the one who creates a technical agricultural school in his commune and he strongly encourages the creation of technical and vocational training schools to provide young Africans with relevant training in agricultural and agribusiness trades.
The discussions resulted in important recommendations for the transformation of agriculture across the continent, including the urgent need to improve research and development (R&D) and Action-Research in Africa, to enhance the agricultural statistics collection system and the capitalization of actors' experiences.
The high-level round table was organized as part of the series of seminars on the development of the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) and contributed to the reflection on ways and means for agricultural development, food sovereignty and structural transformation of economies in Africa.
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