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LOOKING TO THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA

Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg at the African Green Revolution Forum 2016

During the recent African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2016, Nairobi meeting, I got a chance to share my views on African Leadership and Women and Youth in Agriculture at a side event that was hosted by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The event got me thinking about the surge in growth agriculture in Africa and what it means to the continent.

“If current trends are anything to go by, agriculture is positioned to be a major driver of Africa’s economic growth. A World Bank report indicates that, the agricultural Growth Domestic Product (GDP) in sub-Saharan Africa has accelerated from 2.3 percent per year in the 1980s to 3.8 percent per year from 2000 to 2005. The African Development Bank also identifies agriculture, based on value, as the continent’s second- largest industrial sector.

The statistics indicate that the agricultural sector is quickly becoming a major employer in Africa and strengthening the agricultural sector, therefore, will have a significant economic impact on most of Africa’s population.

There are conversations that we must engage in to ensure that the growth of the African agriculture sector will be a reflection of Africa’s prosperity.  Currently, ‘we are at a fork in the road’ and there are two critical questions that MUST be addressed:

  • Is the increase in food production going to follow the usual trend where Africa exports her natural resources compounding poverty on the continent?
  • Will growth in the agricultural sector bring about inclusive growth or will it merely intensify existing structural inequalities that include uneven gender representation and the low ratio of women in decision making positions?

Even as we smile upon the increase in the growth of agriculture, we cannot forget the historical exploitation of Africa’s natural resources which were extracted and sold off cheaply to other continents, in a system that depleted reserves. Moreover, if we do not pay attention to the structural inequalities embedded in the sector, the current growth will only magnify the inequalities.

Another key point to keep in mind as we look to Africa’s agricultural future, is the gender wage gap.  Although it varies between countries, the rural wage gap between men and women in Africa ranges between 15-60 percent. Stereotyping and the misrepresentation of gender, especially the perception that gender is all about poor women in rural areas, has not improved the situation

A study published by World Bank and ONE Africa titled, “Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa,” summarises the subject best. The report contends that the productivity of women farmers is a fraction of that of men. This is a wake-up call to African governments. They need to provide farmers – particularly women – with better access to agricultural information and technology among other inputs.

To put a lid on this discrepancy, we must pay attention to mobile technology as it holds a tremendous potential to unlocking some of the answers surrounding this issue. I applaud governments and NGOs that have hopped on the bandwagon and are deploying mobile technology to solve a myriad of challenges. Connecting the dots between factors that affect agriculture and those that influence the economy will have a positive and great impact on the kind of agricultural growth we envision. This will also inform the youth who represent boundless potential in growing Africa’s agriculture.

The potential agriculture has to drive Africa’s transformation is remarkable! We only need to move beyond rhetoric and ask tough questions about what engaging the youth and women in this change process will mean. Paying attention to infrastructure trends and adopting a gender lens to analyze all agricultural interventions, is critical to ensuring that Africa’s agricultural transformation results in the inclusive and sustainable prosperity of ALL AFRICANS.

Thank you.”