A recent study by Africa Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) has outlined opportunities for improving agricultural value chains with an aim to connect farming to other areas of economic activity.
The study also highlighted how transforming agriculture can become a stimulus for economic development across the continent.
The report, which is the second of its kind from the centre, was launched at a high-level event at the the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) annual Conference of Ministers in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
Key findings were shared by the report’s authors with government officials, policy makers, analysts and business leaders.
Participants discussed how increasing agricultural productivity can contribute to wider economic development.
Opportunities for improving agricultural value chains were identified as well as strategies to connect farming more closely to other areas of economic activity through downstream agro-processing and the upstream manufacturing of inputs or logistics.
These opportunities were balanced alongside the need to achieve growth that was both equitable and sustainable.
The event, co-organised with the ECA Regional Integration and Trade Division responsible for policy research on food security and agricultural co-operation across the continent, offered a compelling rationale for leveraging the sector to kick-start wider economic advances.
Dr K. Y. Amoako, ACET’s President, placed the report in context by explaining that “growth is not enough − transformation means growth with depth.”
The findings were endorsed by Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Finance Minister, who told the gathering: “This type of deep research motivates us”.
He said that farming in Ghana was no longer confined to the ‘backwaters’ in terms of government priorities but was being stimulated by the Planting for Food and Jobs flagship agricultural modernization programme.
Vera Songwe, Executive Director of the ECA, noted that farming is vital to macroeconomic stability and said: “Agriculture is one of the most crucial issues in Africa’s transformation agenda…now is the time to change our farming processes.”
The report findings also demonstrated how a bold agenda for farming could generate employment opportunities in value chains, increase incomes, reduce poverty and help improve the external trade balance.
According to ACET, however, giving farmers access to knowledge, modern inputs, irrigation and mechanisation was deemed crucial securing such benefits.
Addressing issues such as land tenure systems, an ageing farming workforce, low yields, logistical challenges and cross-border trade challenges would also be vital for farming modernisation.
Consideration was also given to cross-cutting issues related to gender equity, environment and climate change.
Special emphasis was placed upon the ‘missing’ middle-scale farms that could be attractive to Africa’s ambitious youth.
Business representatives at the event emphasised the need for public-private partnerships to play a central role in enabling farms to move from subsistence to commercial scale.
Rahel Moges, the founder of the Ethiopian food manufacturer Ethiogreen, stated: “I strongly believe the private sector can drive agricultural transformation, we should be the ones who own this.”
She also underlined the importance of harnessing technology to advance both farming and food production.
In addition to providing a platform for sharing evidence-based insights to support policymakers in shaping the future of farming, the meeting identified clear outcomes in relation to driving future partnerships.
This includes ACET’s promotion of peer-to-peer learning through the country-specific analysis programme it established with ten states.