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    Dr. Kanayo Nwanze

    As I settle back in my homeland Nigeria since retiring as the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in March this year, I am reminded of a local saying that when you go to the stream to fetch water, your bucket will only be filled with the water that is yours. No one can take the water that is meant for you. Life will give you what you deserve, nothing more, and nothing less. But first you must walk to the stream, bend down, and dip your bucket.

    This parable inspired the title of my recently released book, A Bucket of Water, that distils lessons and experiences from my 40-year professional career dedicated to agriculture in general, and African agriculture in particular.

    I have witnessed many inspiring changes in Africa over the years. Technologies that enable farmers produce more yield per unit acreage have been developed. Access to markets and financial resources have also improved as has the policy landscape. Additionally, Africa is experiencing unprecedented economic growth with five of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies being African.

    However, this progress is ironical when Africa, rich as it is, is still unable to feed itself - poverty levels remain high and millions go to bed hungry. I see our over-dependence on minerals as the main problem.

    According to the US Geological Survey 2016, Sub- Saharan Africa produces 77 per cent of the world’s platinum metals; 60 per cent of its cobalt (used for batteries and metal alloys); 46 per cent of its natural industrial diamonds; and an abundance of gold, uranium, oil, and gas. Tragically, this immense mineral richness has not benefited the majority
    My vision for Africa’s future is not built on a foundation of extractive industries.

    These riches have not translated into wide-ranging job creation, or social welfare and stability. They have not fed hungry people. They have not reduced poverty.

    I see Africa’s economic growth predicated upon unlocking and fully tapping into the potential of smallholder farmers who make up 70 per cent of our population. When I insisted for many years that small-scale farms were as much businesses as large-scale operations, my views were considered at best romantic and at worst foolish. I am glad to note that the concept of smallholder farms as a business has become commonplace today.

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    Achieving the kind of economic growth that leaves no one behind requires deliberate prioritization of the agricultural sector. In fact, agriculture is the surest path to Africa’s prosperity. For instance, it is well established that GDP growth due to agriculture is at least three times more effective in reducing poverty in resource-poor, low-income countries than growth in other sectors. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated to be 11 times more effective.

    We are richly endowed with what it takes to achieve greatness - ideal climatic conditions which are, unfortunately, changing in devastating ways; large swathes of arable land; huge deposits of water that can be used for irrigation; and, most importantly, the vast potential of the people themselves especially the ingenuity and vigour of our youth. Our women who do most of our farming deserve a special mention. In 2016, I was honoured as the winner of the Inaugural Africa Food Prize which I dedicated to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families. I am a strong believer that no nation has been able to transform itself without giving women the same rights and opportunities as men.

    However, as I have said many times before, achieving a continent-wide agricultural transformation, as the foundation for food security and poverty alleviation, requires visionary national and continental leadership. For our continent has all it needs to succeed in the right climate of leadership.

    We laud our leaders’ commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture, and to ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness, in the Malabo Declaration. A lot more still needs to be done. For instance, only eight out of 44 governments in sub-Saharan Africa have kept these promises to invest more in agriculture.

    However, where the resolution has been adopted, and the will is there; where the decisions have been taken, and the actions implemented; the results have been both swift and phenomenal.

    Ethiopia, for example, has reaped huge benefits for the last two decades from visionary leadership and by honouring its development commitments. The government set up the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to bolster smallholder farmers’ productivity, enhance marketing systems, upgrade the participation of the private sector, increase the volume of irrigated land and curtail the number of households with inadequate food.

    Today, agriculture is Ethiopia's most important sector, accounting for nearly half of the country’s GDP (46.3 per cent), 90 per cent of exports and 85 per cent of the labour force.

    Rwanda is another example where agricultural transformation has spanned land reform, land consolidation, and better access to inputs and extension for smallholders. This has increased the country’s food availability by 150 per cent, reducing chronic malnutrition and stunting significantly, and reducing poverty by 20 per cent in the last 10 years.

    Visionary leadership in agriculture, therefore, demonstrably offers rapid returns. Ethiopia and Rwanda, both among the fastest growing African economies, are good examples of countries that have walked to the stream to fill their buckets.
    Other countries should make the same walk to the river of agricultural opportunities that continues flowing. The landmark African Green Revolution Forum to be hosted in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by H.E. President Alassane Ouattara, is one step towards the river. At the Forum, global and African leaders will develop actionable plans that will move African agriculture forward.

    Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze is the 2016 winner of the Africa Food Prize and the immediate Former President of the International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD). He is also a Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).




    Farmer piling his potatoes after harvest. Photo: Flickr/CIP/HKI

    Asked where the next crop of African Billionaires will come from, the President of the African Development Bank, Nigerian Dr Akinwumi Adesina, without batting an eyelid, declared that they will be farmers. And he is not the only person in his class endorsing agriculture as the next frontier. Technology success Strive Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean, has indicated more than once that if he was to start over, he would go into farming.

    Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, too, is now venturing into farming, just recently investing $4.6bn in Nigerian agriculture. Dangote plans to invest $3.8bn in sugar and rice and $800m in milk production in the next three years. Already greatly involved in agriculture, Dangote, through his Dangote Group conglomerate, is out to increase his sugar output by 50 per cent (from 100,000 tons), rice yield by 1 million tons, and start producing 500 million litres of milk a year by 2020.

    Masiyiwa and Dangote are successful businessmen in their own right, and being billionaires, they must know something that the average African doesn’t.

    Yet, for years, and even with front-seat access to data and consultant-advice from real billionaires, the majority of African governments have done little to reposition their economies as agricultural powerhouses. But things may now be set to change.

    In 2014, African heads of state met in Equatorial Guinea, and vowed to work together to open up the potential of the region’s agricultural industry. This agreement was put into a document, now popularly known as the Malabo Declaration, which stipulated the specific commitments with clear indicators for tracking and measuring agricultural practice that needed attention.

    Further, the Malabo Declaration, agreed that a new monitoring system would be set up to ensure that the Heads of State, and their respective authorities, maintained accountability to peers, and to their citizenry in delivering this agricultural transformation.

    For this purpose, the Heads of State agreed to review their achievements every two years; popularly known as the biennial review. The first such review is now underway, with a final report set for presentation at the next African Heads of State Summit. In the same way, the Heads of State agreed that there was an urgent need to create a scorecard that would show countries how they are faring on the different goals of the Malabo Declaration.

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    The scorecard, the first ever pan-African co-operation of its kind, is now under development and will be ready before the January 2018 African Union Summit of Heads of State. Once presented, it will provide a new and powerful tool for all stakeholders in identifying the specific areas of agricultural transformation that need attention.

    A complementary tool for the Biennial Review process, the scorecard is powered by data submitted by respective countries on their performance in the 43 agriculture growth indicators agreed on in Malabo. The beauty of the new agriculture scorecard is that it is least concerned with how countries perform against each other and provide an opportunity for sharing lessons.

    The hope is that countries that are struggling to reposition their agricultural sectors for takeoff will use it to reach out to those who are proving successful for guidance, allowing the region to grow together, as a block.

    This function of the agriculture scorecard, therefore, represents the intent and purpose of the discussions in Malabo, as a pan-African drive, where it has become clear that success is not owed to any country in Africa, and that the only way up is by nations becoming pillars of support for each other.

    The scorecard will also be available online to encourage public participation in the interrogation of the information gathered, in the knowledge that by engaging with citizens, Heads of State can benefit from expert advice that may not be immediately available to them. The key principle for presenting the information publicly, however, is rooted in Jürgen Habermas’ articulation that public engagement can influence decisions in ways that see key national objectives met more swiftly.

    The ultimate goal remains to dispel the myth that scorecards are complicated documents whose aim is to vilify non-performers while rewarding success. The leaders’ meeting in Malabo rightly confirmed that Africa is moving into a space where competition in development no longer matters, and that the failure of some countries adversely affects the reputation of the region as a whole.

    By the end of the second biennial review process, and with countries actively engaging with the agriculture scorecard, it is foreseen that further improvement in regional integration will have been secured, with key successes in intra-African trade and increased investment in agriculture and hunger reduction efforts.

    However, the speed at which the scorecard fuels that success depends on support, from governments and other stakeholders, in pursuing its underlying objective. The active interaction of Heads of State with the tool will introduce them to a new line of questioning that will allow them to identify the specific weaknesses they need to overcome for further development. The hope is that by easily identifying critical areas of failure, the Heads of State can encourage both a policy and attitude shift that will eventually drive the desired changes.

    Opinion leaders, such as Dangote, Adesina and Masiyiwa, are helping fellow Africans to appreciate the importance of achieving the Malabo goals. Masiyiwa has already emerged as a major influencer through his interaction with the youth on social media, and his voice is now gradually inspiring a radical shift in favour of agriculture. So are Adesina and Dangote, who are driving a new admiration for farming through their views voiced on television and radio. More of their peers are following suit too, but a lot more mouthpieces are needed around the continent to drive this revolution with the speed it deserves.

    As experts note, it is only when the average African realizes that digging dirt is an honorable job, and develops the desire to be actively involved in it because of the financial liberation it comes with, that the continent will begin to achieve its economic development goals.

    The Malabo declaration and its biennial review process, as well as the new agriculture scorecard, are now providing a new base to drive that change.

    Boaz Blackie Keizire | Head, Policy and Advocacy |Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)


    Close to US$6.5 billion worth of investments in palm oil, pulses, potato and rice, mainly in West Africa, over the next eight years, were made and the new US$280 million Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA) launched

    Major Deals to Accelerate Africa's Path to Prosperity through Agriculture Agreed at World's Foremost Gathering of African Agriculture Leaders 

    Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire -  Africa's economic growth prospects received a major boost this week with the signing of a record number of new investments and partnership agreements for inclusive agricultural transformation at the 2017 Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF).
    The forum, hosted by H.E. Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d'Ivoire, was attended by more than 1300 delegates and high level dignitaries, including H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; H.E. Komi Selom Klassou, Prime Minister of Togo, representative of H.E. Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, President of Togo;  Hon. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Agriculture of Ghana, representative of H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana; H.E. John Kufuor, Former President of Ghana; H.E. President Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria; and H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, Former President of Tanzania. 

    Other dignitaries included H.E. Ms. Correa Josefa Sacko, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture; Mr. Marcel de Souza, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); eight ministers of agriculture and finance; business leaders; financial institutions; private agribusiness firms; farmers; NGOs; civil society; media; scientists; development partners; technical partners; and the next generation of African agripreneurs and leaders. 
    The week long Forum, the 7th in a series, focsed on two things; announcement of concrete investments in agricultural businesses and the establishment of new and innovative approaches and partnerships to deliver programmes for greater results.

    READ: Multi-million dollar Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa launched

    Embodying this spirit, the forum saw the signing of numerous agreements and business deals that will be key in bringing to life major agricultural transformation commitments including the US$ 30 billion committed at the AGRF in 2016. This charge was led by the African Heads of State present at the forum who were unanimous in their call for urgent action and committed to lead by example.
    "Agriculture is an important sector for our economic growth. Studies show that more than half of poverty reduction is attributable to agricultural development against 10 percent for non-agricultural development. This is why we have, in Cote d'Ivoire, gradually increased investments in the sector over the last five years, which has doubled the incomes of farmers and significantly reduced poverty levels," said the host President, H.E. Alassane Ouattara.
    Hailed as one of the foremost African agriculture champions, President Alassane Ouattara committed to increase his government's budgetary allocation for the sector to 10 percent, of which US$200 million has already been provided to cocoa and coffee farmers.

    "We recognise the paramount importance to us as a people and as a continent to turn agriculture around, to feed ourselves qualitatively and quantitatively. Unless we do that, our people will remain susceptible to hunger and malnutrition," said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. She further stressed the value of working with the private sector and committed her government to working with business leaders to double the yields of rice farmers.
    "Looking at all the difficulties we are confronted with today and considering this is a major growing sector, we need to work with other Heads of States to develop policies that are coherent and that encourage smallholders to form cooperatives for ease of access to financing. We need to work in coordination with our peers so that partnerships between the public and the private sector can play a key role in the future of agribusinesses," said H.E. Komi Selom Klassou, the Prime Minister of Togo.

    In his keynote address, Strive Masiyiwa, Chair of the AGRF partners group, stressed the importance of uniting all stakeholders with a shared interest in agricultural development.  "This is an opportunity to mobilise continental leadership and we are honoured to have Heads of State here.  Our mission is about smallholder farmers; and it is about the women who are the main producers of food. We work in partnership with governments to realise the vison of a food secure and prosperous Africa. The AGRF partnership mobilises other players, including the private sector, to invest in the continent's robust agriculture and food sector.  We are calling for global support, not in the form of aid, but in investments to enable our young people to find meaningful employment opportunities."

    Speaking on behalf of H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, President of GhanaHon. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Ghana's Minister of Agriculture, expressed his country's renewed support for the 'Planting for Food and Jobs' programme, with a pilot targeting 200,000 of the country's five million farmers and fisherman in the first year. 

    READ: New Report: Meals Replace Minerals to Restart African Economic Growth

    The forum heard that great progress had been achieved as part of the US$30 billion worth of political, financial and policy pledges made in support of Africa's agriculture at the 2016 AGRF. Key among these was the announcement of the new US$280 million Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). PIATA is an innovative and transformative partnership and financing vehicle to drive inclusive agriculture transformation across the continent to increase incomes and improve the food security of 30 million smallholder farm households in at least 11 African countries by 2021.

    The theme of the forum was Accelerating the Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture, which served as the guiding framework for a total of 52 sessions and more than 300 speakers.  Throughout the forum, there was great emphasis on the priority areas of increasing the involvement of women and youth in agriculture and agribusiness. Significant deals were also signed by the private, public and NGO sectors. They included: 

    - The European Union, which agreed a new European Consensus for Development Initiative with a value of around US$1.5 billion.  This adds to its existing blended finance facilities for Africa and the neighbouring region with an estimated budget of US$2.6 billion to leverage more than $44 billion of investment in Africa until 2020 
    - Germany's Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) reaffirmed its commitment to the One World No Hunger initiative with 1.5 billion per year invested in agriculture
    - Yara, the global fertiliser company, dedicated more than $100 million in downstream operations and $130 million to develop a mine in Ethiopia 
    - Close to US$6.5 billion worth of investments in palm oil, pulses, potato and rice, mainly in West Africa, were made to cover the next eight years.  These included a crowd funding facility to support 10,000 farmers and SMEs with loans of US$100 – US$10,000; a US$500 million infrastructure investment deal to improve access to farms and markets; and a commitment by Mahindra Agribusiness to buy all green grams produced in Africa for processing in a newly built crushing plant in Ethiopia with a capacity of 40,000 tonnes.

    Speaking at the closing ceremony, Hon. Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, Cote d'Ivoire's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development said, "President Ouattara does not make these types of commitments lightly, and you have his assurance that we will make all of the necessary efforts required to implement the recommendations of this vital forum."

    "This week has shown what can be achieved when countries across Africa come together and collaborate with all partners including the private sector," said Commissioner Josefa Sacko. "At the moment, as a continent we rely too heavily on external resources to meet our food needs.  The potential within Africa means that this doesn't need to be the case for future generations. By helping to provide the millions of small holder farmers, so many of whom are women, with access to the funding and expertise they need, we can help them thrive not just as subsistence farmers but as successful business people across the region," she added.
    Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), ended the forum with a stirring call to action that brought home to delegates how agricultural transformation not only changes farming, but remains the best bet for Africa's prosperity.  "An inclusive agricultural transformation will address many of the continent's biggest problems.  For example, agriculture can fill the economic growth gap created by falling commodity prices; create high productivity jobs for young people as an alternative to migration to Europe; improve the livelihoods of farmers to move from subsistence occupations to viable businesses; and create a globally competitive agriculture and agribusiness sector to produce the high value processed foods consumed increasingly by Africa's growing middle classes."
    "The more value added food products Africans can consume that are made in Africa, the fewer imports we need and the more African jobs we create.  By importing so much of our food we are effectively exporting jobs and losing value from our economies. Today, too many of our young people are needlessly dying in the Mediterranean searching for jobs. Tomorrow, let us ensure that agribusiness provides the jobs and stability that they surely deserve," concluded Dr. Kalibata.

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