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Transforming agriculture helps Africa reduce poverty, food insecurity

“African agriculture is in urgent need of an upgrade and fast-track into 21st century productivity,” said Mr. Adam Elhiraika, Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Division at the Economic Commission for Africa, in a statement on behalf of the Executive Secretary, Mr. Carlos Lopes, during the opening of the African Economic Research Consortium Biannual Research workshop on ‘Agriculture and Structural Transformation in Africa.


Mr. Elhiraika pointed out Africa is home to about 60% of the world’s arable land and yet it remains the only region in the developing world where agricultural productivity is both low and falling with per capita output at 56% of the world average. ECA studies have shown that Africa’s per capita agricultural production fell by about 5% over the last 20 years up to 2013 while it increased by 40% in other developing countries. Loans and investments in the sector have equally plummeted during the past two decades.


About four out of five Africans rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Most poor people not only depend on agriculture, they also live in rural areas. To realize the potential of the sector, researchers advocate for a sustained transformation based on consistent policies and effective implementation strategies.


Agriculture in Africa remains where the greatest potential for increasing broad-based growth and sustainable wealth creation currently lies, and it can offer the greatest potential for the reduction of poverty and inequality said Mr. Elhiraika explaining the role agriculture can play in manufacturing, service and value-chain sectors. He stated that agriculture has the attribute of being the primary source of the income that goes into the pockets of the bulk of consumers.


Increased agricultural productivity, combined with viable agribusiness that adds value to farmers’ production and improved access to markets, can drive broader economic growth and make a tremendous contribution to the attainment of food security.


Mr. Elhiraika declared agriculture can be expected to be one of Africa’s key drivers for sustainable growth if funding for research and technology development is provided. There is also a need to develop targeted financing strategies and financial products suited to the agriculture sector and smallholder farmers.


The workshop, jointly organized by the African Economic Research Consortium, the African Union Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa, attended by approximately 200 academics, researchers, economists and policy makers will include discussions on climate change, finance mobilization, poverty, income distribution and macro-economic policies and growth.

Photograph: Howard Burditt/REUTERS

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