A serious economic challenge currently facing Africa is its food sector, which is now one of the continent’s top development priorities. African farmers and consumers need to address the challenge posed by the food sector. At present, 20% of the food consumed in Africa is imported. This importation costs between 30 and 50 billion US dollars (USD) per year and according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, it could climb to 150 billion USD by 2030. The question is this, how can Africa address its food needs in the coming years?
In addition to being an economic issue, food poses social as well as cultural challenges. The “deruralisation” of the countryside in favour of cities leads to the “haemorrhaging of the peasant populations” and food is one of the foundations of African people’s culture. Does Africa have the means to address these issues today? African farmers and fishermen are currently facing challenges that greatly hinder the development of African agriculture. International and national organisations are implementing policies set to overcome these obstacles, but they have so far proven to be insufficient, or even counterproductive. Unequal access to resources, climate constraints, lacking infrastructure, technologies that are not equipped to handle varying economic and ecological situations, increasingly competitive markets, low remuneration and many other factors are damaging the stability and prosperity of African agricultural development. Banks have remained highly suspicious and have difficulty offering loans to farmers. Microloans aren’t suitable for African farmers’ economic situation due to their high interest rates so they must find their own solutions and develop strategies that are adapted to meet their needs, but will above all their means.
Agriculture is crucial to the economy of every African country that has nevertheless benefitted from many investments over the years. Fifteen years ago, the African Union made the choice to make the agricultural sector one of the main pillars of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. Therefore, African countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Malawi, the Congo, Senegal, Togo, Burundi and Ghana have been able to increase their investments in this sector, reduce poverty and food shortages as well as boost productivity, growth and intra-African trade. Some countries like the North African states have chosen to prioritize food self-sufficiency while others have focused their strategies on the development of new technologies, particularly digital ones. Start-ups have developed tools to anticipate their needs and deal with the unexpected: weather forecasts, agronomist advice, linking buyers and sellers, etc. These innovative initiatives are transforming the agricultural sector: in 2018, the creation of an Agriculture Observatory by the World Bank made it possible to collect and share agrometeorological data. Knowledge of this data is essential to detect and avoid risks that can damage crops and harvests, but also to avoid famines.
The agri-food sector in Africa was valued at 313 billion USD in 2013 and employs 70% of the continent's poorest populations. If the sector were to develop sustainably, it could create new jobs and consequently raise people's living standards, reducing poverty rates. The African agricultural market would become a major player on the world market and could thus enable African farmers to be more competitive. According to World Bank studies, these facts could definitely be achieved, "African agri-food has the potential to reach 1 trillion USD by 2030". To achieve these results, However, Africa will have to work hard and every state will have to establish reliable and achievable agricultural policies, despite the political instability hindering some states in their development policies.
The African continent has unique potential, it has "50% of the earth’s unused fertile land”, which represents 450 million hectares. Africa only uses 2% of its renewable water resources, compared to a global average of around 5% and it has untapped water resources.
Agriculture : « L’Afrique aussi doit consommer local », Ibrahima Coulibaly, Henri Rouillé d’Orfeuil, Le Monde, 25/02/2019: https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2019/02/25/agriculture-l-afrique-aussi-doit-consommer-local_5428161_3212.html
Agribusiness and value chains, The World Bank: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agribusiness
Agriculture : l’Afrique aussi se tourne vers le numérique, Sophy Caulier, Le Monde, 17/02/2019: https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2019/02/17/agriculture-l-afrique-aussi-se-tourne-vers-le-numerique_5424567_3212.html
L’Agroalimentaire en Afrique : mythe ou réalité ? Kingsley Ighobor, Aissata Haidara, Afrique Renouveau: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/fr/magazine/%C3%A9dition-sp%C3%A9ciale-agriculture-2014/l%E2%80%99agroalimentaire-en-afrique-mythe-ou-r%C3%A9alit%C3%A9
Les agricultures africaines : transformations et perspectives, NEPAD, United Nations: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/sites/www.un.org.africarenewal/files/Agriculture_Africaine.pdf
Source image : L’Agroalimentaire, un secteur d’avenir en Afrique, Corinne Morin, Centre Africain de Veille et d’Intelligence Economique, Cavie: https://www.cavie-acci.org/fr/l-agroalimentaire-un-secteur-d-avenir-en-afrique/