Kigali — The food market will remain the biggest market in the world and Africa will be the biggest producer if we get our macroeconomic and fiscal policies, trade and gender policies right, said Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa at the just concluded Africa Green Revolution Forum in Kigali.
Songwe called on African countries, governments and the private sector to expedite agricultural transformation, drawing in smallholder farmers and private agribusinesses, recalling the potential of that sector. Sustainable macroeconomic policies are important to allow for adequate agri-related public investments. "Africa's agriculture and agribusiness markets are set to rise to US$ 1 trillion by 2030", she said. "Africa's farmers are the small and medium enterprises we need to achieve sustainable growth on the continent," she added.
According to research by the ECA, Africa spent approximately $70 billion on food imports in 2016 and, if left unchecked, the continent's food import bill is expected to surge to $110 billion by 2025.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Songwe said, is a powerful catalyst for trade and exports of agriculture commodities and derivatives within Africa. Intra-African trade for food products stands at 17 per cent, much lower that over 60 percent in the EU. "We must do more, better and faster by improving on infrastructure, logistics and reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers" she noted. We can measure our performance and eliminate barriers to cross border trade.
She stated that trade liberalization under the AfCFTA, is expected to result in significant export growth of about 30 percent in various food products and more importantly, help strengthen the regional supply chain on agro-processing.
She advocated for women's land rights as crucial for the growth of Africa's agriculture sustainably and equitably. "We know that women in the agriculture sector constitute 45 per cent of the agricultural labour force yet they are up to 30 per cent less productive than male farmers because they have less access to finance and technology." Following the examples of countries like Rwanda, she encouraged leaders to commit to measuring women's access to land and pledged ECA's support in association with AGRF as a way of growing agriculture productivity and prosperity.
The ECA Executive Secretary also congratulated the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) that won the 2018 Africa Food Prize award. IITA is a Nigeria-based international centre that focuses its work on research in finding solutions to hunger and poverty.
With the theme "Lead, Measure, Grow", the 2018 Africa Green Revolution Forum gathered in Kigali African leaders, businesses, and major development partners to catalyse significant political and financial backing to continue supporting African agricultural priorities, scaling innovative and effective ideas and commodity value chains.