Metropole Magazine

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15 May Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

A Green Deal for Africa

The just concluded World Economic Forum on Africa will be remembered as one where the next level in the delivery of Africa's promise was charted. The numbers are nothing but extraordinary. But Africa cannot afford to wallow in a certain level of mediocrity. While we look at where we are in relation to where we were, we must also not forget to look at where we are in relation to where we could be.

As Africa rises, it is time to pay attention to the possible cogs in the wheel of this progress. Our young people are still out of jobs and mostly without the right kind of education. Our women are still deprived of resources and opportunities that'd help them help our continent produce better yields and opportunities for tomorrow's generation. At the foundation of it all, we cannot chart a future without paying attention to the climate. Africa needs a new deal that'd incorporate its young people, its women and its environment in the run-up to that desirable future our people so crave.

By 2020 the world would have to find a way to feed nine billion mouths. Africa can be the answer to that question. However, there are questions Africa itself must answer to play the role of the world’s food basket. In many African countries, infrastructure remains as it was when the colonial states left. This must change. African countries need to attract investment into this sector. Public Private Partnership (PPP), which has not exactly taken off in Africa, can help make this change happen. Rural areas are the worst hit in terms of infrastructure. If they are abandoned in Africa’s infrastructural development, it’d amount to abandoning the goose that lays the golden egg. Most of the farming takes place in the rural areas.

Farmers must be empowered to access finance and credit while old seeds must be done away with. Farmers need advanced seeds. Access to fertilizer must be transparent. Kenya is doing well on this with M-Pesa. Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has also started a process like M-Pesa that’d help link farmers directly to inputs like fertilizers and the markets. Across the continent, land policies remain muddy, inconsistent and inimical to agricultural development. Kenya has made giant strides with its new constitution giving women the rights to land. This is the path other countries must take.

Agricultural production needs incentives. Local production will grow in geometric terms if African governments and investors commit to making Africa the food basket of the world. The secondary level of production is also critical. It would not be enough to produce and just export; it helps to add some value before exporting. McKinsey & Company discovered that the worth of Africa’s agricultural production was $280 billion in 2008. The company projected that if all the barriers to the development of agriculture resolved, Africa’s agricultural production will be worth $880 billion by 2030.

The labour force is there. Africa is the youngest continent. Half of our population is under 20. By the year 2040, there’d be more Africans in the labour pool than there’d be in China. China’s labour force will age. The competition for labour will mean higher costs to attract labour. This only means that if Africa gets its acts together, it is the next frontier for global development. This is why we cannot celebrate too much because we are not even close to where we can be. Our economies are growing but this growth remains jobless.

World Economic Forum on Africa 2013 was about delivering on Africa’s promise. There is no better sector than agriculture to make that promise a telling reality. A green deal for Africa is our big deal and it must be seen to be that way. After all said and done, it provides 70% of African jobs today and one can only wonder what it’d provide when the process becomes more efficient and effective.

We will gather again in Africa from the 7th to the 9th of May 2014 in Abuja, Nigeria. It would have amounted to another round of bla bla bla if we don’t discuss the leaps we ought to have made in the months leading up to WEF 2014. Our young people, our women and our climate must be yardsticks of how much progress we are making.