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Africa’s Agricultural Potential

agricultural potential
The farming industry makes up 30 to 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP and 70 percent of the labor force. Africa’s agricultural potential is so great that the continent could become the new bread basket of the world if properly guided. It has all the makings for a green revolution, such as the ones newly developed regions in Brazil and Asia have experienced. One prediction sets agricultural output of Africa at a worth of $880 billion by 2030.

“Agriculture is a proven driver of transformational change,” says Juergen Voegele, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice. Unlocking the potential in the farming industry would have affects far beyond the industry itself. It could be the catalyst for massive social and economic growth.

However, the industry is currently struggling. One reason for the struggle is the lack of enthusiasm in younger generations for farming. The youth no longer want to take over their parents’ farms and, with the average farmer aged 55, the current generation is running out of time.

Sanoussi Diakite is a young man from Senegal whose innovative invention shows that there is more to agriculture than farming. If youth are not motivated to farm as a career, there are other options. Senegal has a high demand for the cereal fonio. Sanoussi noticed the demand, and he also noticed how laborious and time inefficient the process of husking fonio is. So, he solved the problem by inventing a machine to assist the husking process.

Sanoussi’s machine is widely successful, with 20 operating in West Africa. He also has plans to create a factory to produce his machine on a large scale.

Not every young person will be motivated by the same entrepreneurial spirit, but Dr. Katrin Glatzel, Innovation Officer at Agriculture for Impact, suggests actions donors and governments might make to assist the process. She advises financing farm-related business, education in agricultural science, vocational or business management and economic policies to nurture an environment conducive to entrepreneurship.

Other fruitful techniques for overcoming the obstacles of a struggling agricultural industry are seen in eastern Africa. Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are working with the East African Agricultural Productivity Program (EAAPP) to harness the agricultural industry’s powers to contribute to inclusive growth.

A concrete example of what is being done can be seen in Uganda. Cassava is a staple in the diets of people not just in Uganda, but all over eastern Africa. When brown streak disease threatened to deplete the cassava crop to dangerously low levels, the National Crops Resources Research Institute stepped in. They developed a technique that saved the cassava and, consequently, saved farmers and their families from going under.

EAAPP is financed by The World Bank and partners. Makhtar Diop, The World Bank Vice President for the Africa region, speaks of the achievements in the four countries: “These success stories show how science and technology is enabling African farmers to grow more nutritious food and boost inclusive growth.”

– Julianne O’Connor

Sources: Business Fights Poverty, The World Bank, Ventures
Photo: SNV