This week, Africa’s agricultural sector was given a much needed boost when several heads of state, African leaders, businesses and major development partners pledged more than $30 billion dollars in investments in order to increase production, employment opportunities and income for the small-holder farmer in Africa for over the next ten years.
In the week-long conference held at the United Nations Gigiri at Nairobi, the Seize the Moment agenda was clearly felt as the commitments were made at the official opening of the sixth African Green Revolution Forum, which attracted more than 1,500 delegates from 40 countries including President Paul Kagame from Rwanda, Hon. Olesegun Obasanja from Nigeria and His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta. The historic #AGRF2016 pledges, which were made on Wednesday the 7th of September, only push for the political, financial and policy commitments essential to radically transforming Africa’s backbone – agriculture.
One of the most noticeable pledges made was by our very own President, where His Excellency committed himself to deliver on both the political and policy agenda. He announced that the Kenyan government will invest US $200 million so at least 150,000 young farmers and young agriculture entrepreneurs can gain access to markets, finance, and insurance. He then called on his fellow heads of state across Africa to step-up and invest aggressively over the next five years in agriculture-related endeavors.
He also pointed out that the forum had proposed three considerations:
- To collectively agree to streamline national plans and strategies so that they clearly align to the Malabo commitments and to give specific time frames in which this will happen.
- The commitment to increase financing for agriculture.
- He proposed that we make a greater push for accountability by creating a continental agricultural performance scorecard.
Other commitments made include:
- A US $24 billion from the African Development Bank (AfDB) over the next ten years – this is a 400 percent increase over previous commitments, to help drive agricultural transformation in Africa. The AfDB President Mr. Akin Adesina said that the AfDB support will also accelerate access to commercial financing, strengthened by proven approaches to reducing risks of commercial lending to smallholder farmers and other agriculture businesses.
- Support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to contribute at least US $5 billion to African development over the next five years. It is expected that will include at least US $1 billion for agriculture, based on expenditures in recent years. The agriculture investments will continue the Gates Foundation’s work to expand crop and livestock research, strengthen data for decision-making, and improve systems to deliver better tools, information and innovations to farmers.
In addition, both the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation promised to renew their support for AGRA as the foundation continues to play an important role in forging partnerships that are dedicated to supporting agriculture-led economic transformation across entire countries.
- The Rockefeller Foundation made an additional US $180 million – which includes US $50 million beyond the US $105 million already invested in AGRA and US$130 million for its Yieldwise initiative, work directed by AGRA and other partners that is deploying better storage, handling and processing capabilities to reduce the significant post-harvest losses on African farms due spoilage or pests.
- Kenya Commercial Bank Group (KCB) CEO Mr. Joshua Oigara pledged US $350 million from the bank to finance agriculture business opportunities that could reach some 2 million smallholder farmers, 50,000 women & 50,000 youths in the new $350m credit line – which is 5 percent of the bank’s overall lending portfolio. KCB will also work with the MasterCard Foundation, contributing US $30 million each year to helping smallholder farmers access credit and market information via mobile devices. Mr. Joshua Oigara, also challenged his colleagues at other leading financial institutions in sub-Saharan Africa to match KCB’s commitment.
- USAID also launched a global report entitled “A Food-Secure 2030”. The US government has invested more than $6.6 billion in global food security and nutrition efforts through its Feed the Future initiative which has an enduring commitment to ensuring global food security and nutrition.
All these commitments, and more, point out to the crucial factor that, ‘Africa shouldn’t beg for food. We should feed ourselves.’ The billions spent in imports in food from other countries should instead be spent in improving our own agricultural ventures. This can only be done through accountability. In as much as we have the systems to do this, we need to strengthen the involvement of other parts of the value chain – this includes the involvement of both the private and public sector. And it is only through the transformation of agriculture that we can be able to transform the continent.
The AGRF is meant to not just bring together heads of state to forge and sign on incredible partnerships, it is meant to be a voice for the small-holder farmer. The AGRF is meant to speak out the issues faced by these farmers and find ways to bring to life the necessary Green Revolution that will completely change the dynamics of Africa.
President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Kanayo F. Nwanze and Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank both criticized on the fact that women are one of the most important elements in agriculture and shouldn’t be left behind. Africa wouldn’t be able to transform itself without giving women the same opportunities and rights as men, for women shape the foundation of the integral part of the system that will shape the continent’s development for years to come.
The question on everyone’s mind however is, ‘With all these deals being made, will we be true to ourselves as a continent to deliver them?’ Truth is, as much as the heads of State got together, we are all in this revolution together, there is only so much that the President can do. So will you as an individual play your part in transforming Africa’s agriculture?
Business mogul Strive Masiyiwa said that there is a need to change the narrative on agriculture from just back breaking work. You don’t necessarily have to pick a jembe or drive a tractor to play your part, agriculture is so much more than that. You could develop applications that will transform agriculture or decide to become an agricultural journalist. The point is there is so much more that the youth can do to play their part. So will you take up the challenge and #SeizeTheMoment?