Monday, 25 July 2016

My dream for Nigeria’s agriculture sector

I have a dream, that Nigeria will produce more rice than Thailand, more cocoa than Cote d’Ivoire, more palm oil than Malaysia and abundant wheat and sugar for local consumption.  I have a dream that the era of malnutrition and hunger in Nigeria have come to an end. ‎

I have a dream that Nigeria will no longer import vegetable oil, frozen fish and poultry products. I have a dream that we’ll produce enough feed for livestock while we’ll also own abundant fishing fleets. I have a dream that Nigeria’s agricultural produce will meet international standard as they will be largely sought after. I have a dream that our agricultural institutions will become one of the best in the world.
It has been erroneously believed that commercial and subsistence farming are the two forms of agriculture being practised in Nigeria. Subsistence and commercial agriculture may be what are obtainable in other nations, but what we practise are far from these. Actually, ‎the forms of agriculture we practise are mainly ‘primitive’ and ‘political’ farming.
Primitive farming is practised by rural farmers. They lack capital, information, modern implements and other necessary facilities that can initiate massive food production. Political farming is practised by governments and her agencies in which so much noise is made concerning provision of loans, fertilisers and farm implements to rural farmers, yet the outputs are nowhere to be found.
A terribly wrong perspective Nigerians have towards agriculture is that ‘it is a cutlass and hoe thing’. We have been able to abundantly produce  some food items such as cassava, beans, onions, tomatoes and maize with cutlass and hoes, so we assume we must use these primitive tools to cultivate all crops. The buoyant agrarian economy Nigeria had in the 1950’s and 1960’s was achieved without use of modern machines, therefore we dream of bringing back the good old days with same operation mode.
Nigeria imports so much rice, wheat and vegetable oil and more because peasant farmers who are into agriculture do not have what it takes to import necessary technology for massive food production. Our engineers and scientist are poorly equipped to develop modern machines and facilities needed on farm as well. One more thing is that, instead of investing in agriculture, a business which adds more value to the economy, Nigerian investors prefer to invest in hotels, clubs, importation, filling stations and bureau de change.

Our educational system trains medical students who graduate to practise as doctors, such that our hospitals can do without expatriate doctors. Likewise we have Nigerian trained professional economist, lawyers, pharmacists, accountants, architects, and nurses who are doing exploits in their various fields without relying on foreign professionals. But agricultural science graduates are not so, I mean they do not end up as professional farmers after school.
There are three approaches we can utilise in order to achieve this dream. They are the short, medium and long term approaches. We should totally discard political farming as it an avenue to corruptly enrich few people. I believe in introducing new capable investors and organisations to venture into agriculture for transformation of the sector.
Firstly, I have identified a specific organisation -religious organisations- they have massive investments in education, health, media and other socio-economic activities. They can equally be harnessed for job creation, especially in the agricultural sector. They are potentials waiting to be tapped for further exploits. I am confident that if these organisations are properly harnessed, they are capable of providing investments worth over 100 billion naira in the agricultural sector over the next ten years. The major challenge is how to sensitize them so that they can do more in the economy (I am seeking for partnership on a proposal I have on this).
We should encourage Nigerians in diaspora to invest in agriculture. Today, many state governments have association with Songhai Farms because of the giant strides Songhai has recorded in agriculture. A Nigerian named Rev Father Godfery Nzamujo, who once lived in the US, heard of the severe malnutrition in Nigeria, returned to Africa to establish a farm. The success story of Songhai Farm ( is what we need to replicate in almost every local government area in Nigeria.
The long term approach Nigeria needs to achieve agricultural revolution is for research and educational institutions to develop and commercialise abundant machines, chemicals and processes for the sector. Sustainability can never be achieved when all facilities needed for production are imported. Food exporting nations have understood the need for developing sophisticated technology locally as a panacea to abundant food production and this is what Nigeria must emulate.

Modern agriculture is a business of the educated people in developed nations. I mean people who can access information and provide innovative solutions for agricultural revolution. I believe the government should equip our agricultural science students in order to own own farms before and after graduation as this will yearly increase the number of professional farmers in an arithmetic progression.
We must understand that the criteria for acceptance of our agricultural produce in developed nations is when it meets their stipulated standards. We cannot afford to continue to depend on crude oil as the only foreign exchange earner. Standards must be locally established while required government  agencies must have well equipped laboratories to offer adequate monitoring. Measuring up to their standards means creating more avenues for exportation and foreign exchange.
Government must be ready to adequately fund the academic and research institutes so that they’ll measure up to their responsibilities. Tax holidays, import waivers and incentives for a specific time should be given to the new investors. Other investment friendly policies should also be made.

When the agricultural revolution dream is achieved, we’ll save over $10bn  spent annually on importation of rice, sugar, vegetable oil, wheat, apple, fish and other agricultural products. Achieving this dream means a great reduction in unemployment, poverty and malnutrition

Africa: Private Sector Urged to Invest in Africa's Agriculture

The commissioner for rural economy and agriculture of the African Union, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, has called on the private sector to invest in agriculture to increase productivity and food security in Africa.
She made the remarks on Saturday while addressing the press on the sidelines of the AU summit, on how the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) of the Maputo Declaration of 2003 has been implemented.
She reminded that in 2003, at the African Union (AU) summit in Maputo, African leaders pledged to allocate at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture, to adopt sound agricultural development policies and to achieve at least 6% agricultural growth per annum, and created specific plans like the CAADP.
Tumusiime said that as a consequence, agriculture has grown by 4% per annum, though the target is 6%, which can only be achieved with collaborative efforts.
As a result, public agricultural expenditure has risen on average by more than 7 % per year across Africa since 2003, nearly doubling since the launch of CAADP.
"Graduates are not practicing agriculture, they go for soft jobs such as in ICT, and the private sector is needed in agriculture - if we invest in it Africa's GDP will grow," she said.

According to the World Bank May 10, 2016 update, Africa is among the fastest growing regions, but it now faces significant headwinds as a result of global trends and region-specific risks. Growth has slowed to 3.0% in 2015, down from 4.5 % in 2014.
"We needed mechanized agriculture and many people in agro-processing, more productivity with standards will generate jobs, increasing opportunities, especially for women and youth, ensure food security for both subsistence and international trade, improved nutrition, and strengthening resilience," she said.
Agriculture has the greatest potential to lift the continent out of poverty and alleviate hunger, but the sector has struggled to perform in recent history, with reforms happening excruciatingly slowly.

According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes 32% to Africa's GDP and provides employment to 65% of the labour force on the continent. In many countries, up to 85% of the workforce is employed in the agricultural sector, and an estimated 38% of Africa's working youth is presently employed in the agricultural sector.
Tumusiime added that a large proportion of African farmers are smallholders and often women, stressing that agricultural transformation is a springboard to industrialization as it becomes essential to invest in it and develop accessibility to quality inputs, markets for produce, good soils and soil management techniques, innovative finance tools and other resources needed for sustained agricultural production.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Let’s make agriculture cool again

Governments around the world are looking for economic growth and job creation. African economies are no exception, with increasing recognition that growth has to be built on a more diversified economic structure in order to make a lasting contribution to development. For even though Africa has weathered the fall in commodity prices better than the pessimists predicted, the instability of commodity dependence remains a reality.

In their pursuit of growth and diversification, African economies should consider transforming the discourse from a focus on industrialisation to a broader one centred on value addition in agriculture, manufacturing and services. There is no one size fits all approach to value addition. It is worth analysing whether the well-established post-1950s path to development - moving people and resources out of low-productivity subsistence work, especially farming, and into more productive activities in modern manufacturing and ultimately services - is still the optimum approach to job and wealth creation.

This doesn’t mean that African governments should give up on manufacturing and trade. In fact, as China moves up the value chain, there is much potential to attract labour-intensive light manufacturing, as is already happening in countries as varied as Ethiopia and Madagascar. What it does mean is that African governments, partner countries and multinational companies should do more to encourage investment not just in export-oriented manufacturing, but also in services, innovation and agri-processing. This involves investing in the ‘framework of trade’: from improving policies and physical infrastructure to lowering production and trade costs, fostering better business links to regional and international buyers and ensuring ready availability of financing for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Agriculture deserves particular attention, because it accounts for around 60% of the labour force in Africa - more than 70% in countries like Liberia and Guinea. And it employs the vast majority of women, especially in sectors such as coffee and tea. Many African smallholder farmers did not share in the ‘green revolution’ productivity gains driven by modern seeds and techniques, irrigation, and greater fertilizer use in Asia and Latin America in the 1960s. In sub-Saharan Africa, irrigation still reaches only a small share of arable land, and the wide variety of staple crops - from teff in Ethiopia to cassava, yams, millet, and maize elsewhere - means that crop strain innovation is a taller task than in Asia where wheat and rice dominate.

Efforts are ongoing to close the yield gaps in African farming by overcoming limited irrigation and other inputs, low-yield seeds, inadequate storage, weak climate resilience, and uncompetitive access to local - let alone international - markets. Initial results are promising. Success could be transformative: with half the world’s uncultivated arable land, and relatively underused renewable water resources, Africa should be at the heart of feeding the 2.5 billion new mouths - many of them African - the global population is projected to add by 2050.

Yet substantially higher productivity will mean that far fewer women and men will be needed to till the soil itself. And people likely won’t be able to walk off the farm and into low-skilled urban manufacturing jobs as they might have done half a century ago in Spain and Korea. The risk is that many people will end up languishing in low-productivity informal service sector work.

The goal, then, must be to transform today’s subsistence agriculture into tomorrow’s agro-processing. Agricultural production, transformation, and related activities like branding, marketing and logistics could become alternative drivers of value addition and the creation of decent jobs.
While tariffs and distortionary subsidies in developed countries have long discouraged investment and value addition in agriculture in Africa, the playing field has significantly changed. Trade reforms and booming South-South and regional trade opportunities have opened new avenues. There is no intrinsic reason African countries should be importing, rather than exporting, basic staples like rice or higher value products like frozen chicken, cooking oil, or instant noodles.
But for agro-based industries to ‘jumpstart economic transformation’, challenges must be overcome at every step of the value chain. Farmers will need much better access to finance, electricity, technology, and irrigation. Agro-industry will need to expand both ‘downstream’, which is to say in processing, and in ‘upstream’ input-related activities. Health, safety, and sustainability standards - both public and private - will need to be met. And crucially, small-scale farmers, and SMEs, instead of only selling locally in low-income communities, will need to connect to more productive regional and international value chains. None of this is straightforward, and constraints on agro-industry vary from one crop or location to the next.

But the payoffs make it worth trying.

In Uganda, for example, the International Trade Centre has connected coffee farmers with traders and roasters looking for particular taste characteristics. The resulting long-term contracts and knowledge-sharing have resulted in improved productivity and quality, and a substantial increase in farm-gate prices. Finance management counsellors were trained to assist farmers’ associations to raise working capital to purchase members’ coffee and sell it on in bulk, enabling farmers to get higher prices than what they could have negotiated on an individual basis. This approach - addressing weak points in the value chain and building connections to foreign buyers - has fostered more processing and higher incomes in the Ghanaian yam sector, the Caribbean coconut industry, and for cassava farmers in Fiji.

Steadily growing demand from African consumers has confirmed that late management guru C. K. Prahalad was right a decade ago when he urged global businesses to seek out the fortune at ‘the bottom of the pyramid’. The challenge now is to fully harness the entrepreneurial energies of the bottom of the pyramid as producers.

In Africa, agro-industry must feature more prominently in the structural transformation process. Harvard science and technology expert Calestous Juma has argued that agriculture is more knowledge-intensive than manufacturing, and offers great opportunities for technological learning. There are solid grounds to believe this learning could spill over into other sectors.

The UNCTAD XIV conference in Nairobi this month provides a valuable opportunity for national governments, investors, and the international community to think about how to develop the sustainable agribusiness value chain in Africa. It is time we made agriculture ‘cool’ for new generations, by making it more rewarding.

Transform Agriculture Into a Wealth Creation Sector, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina Urges

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina with Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, at the 35th Session of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee meeting in Kigali on July 16, 2016
The issue of Africa's industrialization was the focus of the 35th Session of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee that met in Kigali, Rwanda, in the context of the African Union Summit.

At the July 16, 2016 event, the leaders deliberated on the importance of intensifying industrialization and scaling up the continent's electrification programs. They urged the New Partnership for Africa's Development to work with regional trading blocs to achieve industrialization for sustainable development.
Representing Rwanda's President, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo asked the delegates to consider implementing partnerships aimed at reaching sustainable development. "Our goal of sustainable development cannot be realized without industrializing Africa. Our deliberations are important and should lead to practical outcomes geared towards achieving an industrialized Africa," she added.

The Committee's Chairperson, Senegal's President, Macky Sall, stressed that "without energy there is no industrialization". He said there was urgent need for an appropriate industrialization strategy that will ensure a steady pace across the continent.
Addressing the meeting, President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank, outlined the Bank's New Deal on Energy for Africa whose goal includes expanding grid-power by 160 Gigawatts, connecting 130 million people to grid, another 75 million people to off-grid sources, and 150 million households to clean cooking energy. "We must have energy for light, clean cooking and baseload energy," he said, emphasizing the need to ensure the right energy mix on the continent.
He noted the importance of having a timeline that allows Africa to make adjustments to its energy mix, citing the AfDB-led Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, which is expected to deliver 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020. It also seeks to mobilize Africa's potential to generate at least 300 GW by 2030.

The meeting pointed out the critical role of private sector, describing it as effective in achieving rapid industrialization. "We need to accelerate the rate of private sector participation by creating an enabling environment for its operation. Private sector is the engine of industrial growth, and its ability to create employment is acknowledged," noted Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia's Prime Minister. He referred to the much anticipated Hawassa Industrial Park which is expected to create 60,000 jobs in the country.

President Adesina pointed out the opportunity posed by agro-allied industrialization, saying Africa needed to diversify from raw material production to developing value chains. "This will make Africa's agriculture competitive. He mentioned the current scenario where Africa is producing close to 75 percent of the world's cocoa, but processing only two percent. "The key is to use agriculture as a sector for wealth generation and not one to fight poverty," he stated.
Monitoring and implementation of these initiatives and projects emerged as a key point during the meeting. The NEPAD Agency Chief Executive Officer, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, presented a recently developed 'dashboard', which he said would guide the Agency as well as Member States in tracking and implementing targets of regional and continental projects. The tool, he said, would enhance accountability.