Africa’s agriculture sector is at an inflection point and could grow significantly in the coming years with the right investments and policy actions, according...

Africa’s agriculture sector is at an inflection point and could grow significantly in the coming years with the right investments and policy actions, according to leaders of business and government and others who gathered for the 2016 Grow Africa Investment Forum in Kigali.

“Agriculture is the sector that will transform Africa. Our industrialization will be driven by value-added processing of our agriculture products. However we need to tackle key bottlenecks like infrastructure and farmers’ access to finance and markets, “ said Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta

Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, outlined the significant progress to date in boosting Ethiopian agriculture. “African economies have agriculture as their backbone. We need to commercialize and modernize smallholder farmers to realize this potential, and the private sector can play a major role. With greater investment and government commitment, we are seeing greater productivity as well as better livelihoods for farming communities,” he noted.

The Grow Africa partnership reported that over $500 million in new private-sector investments were implemented in 2015, bringing the total to $2.3 billion implemented out of over $10 billion committed by more than 200 African and global companies. In the past year, these investments reached around 10 million smallholder farmers and created 30,000 jobs, bringing the total number of jobs created to 88,000 since 2012.

In the first quarter of 2016, almost $500 million in additional investment commitments were made, suggesting that investor interest remains strong. However, investors have substantial concerns about the enabling environment for African agriculture, according to a survey conducted by Grow Africa. Business leaders believe that better access to finance and risk management tools, infrastructure, and policy and regulatory improvements are needed – but out of over 130 company responses, almost 70% reported seeing no improvement on these fronts over the past year.

The Grow Africa partnership was co-founded by the African Union, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum to advance progress on Africa’s food security and agriculture-sector goals through multistakeholder collaboration. After the World Economic Forum hosted and supported the partnership secretariat for an initial three-year period, the secretariat has now transitioned to NEPAD Agency headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. The co-founders announced the appointment of the new Executive Director of Grow Africa, William Asiko, effective in May. Asiko is transitioning from his role as Chief Executive Officer of the Investment Climate Facility and, prior to that, served as President of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, among other public- and private-sector roles.

“Grow Africa provides a unique platform for forging the connections between the public and private sectors needed to support the growth of the agriculture sector and unlock investment opportunities,” said Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency. “NEPAD looks forward to scaling the impact of Grow Africa’s work in support of CAADP and, in particular, in delivering on the ambitious Malabo Declaration targets around increasing agricultural productivity and regional trade, and improving food security.”

“Grow Africa is poised to enter an exciting new chapter, anchored within the African institutions and led by a new Executive Director,” said Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director, World Economic Forum USA. “The World Economic Forum is proud to have helped catalyse and develop this path-breaking partnership, and remains fully committed to supporting it going forward,” she added.

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Staff Writer