Regardless of the approach or transformative pathway chosen to change food systems and trade regimes, African countries need to undertake radical change in agricultural production systems, adopt agribusiness and promote regional agricultural value chains as a vein for regional integration.
This was the view of Mr. Attia Nasreddin, the Chairman, NASCO Group of Companies in a goodwill message sent to the opening of a symposium themed: Implementing agro-industrialisation and regional value chains for Africa’s agricultural transformation.
“Despite a handful of landmark political commitments, Africa is the only region in the world that has witnessed an increase in the number of food insecure people and has a mushrooming agricultural and food trade deficit,” said Nasreddin.
He noted that the food situation continues to worsen in real terms with the number of chronically food insecure reaching 229 million in 2016.
“This is about 49 million more people at risk compared to 1990 – almost one of every four in Africa, excluding North Africa,” he said.
Attia Nasreddin indicated that the progress in the levels of agricultural productivity has been uneven across countries, ranging from an increase of 325 per cent in Nigeria to a decrease of about 40 per cent in Zimbabwe and proposed that rethinking agricultural transformation would involve the adoption of a three-pronged approach that should systematically and comprehensively consider three essential elements: farming systems, agribusiness and regional value chains.
On efficient farming systems, he said that Africa needs to produce more food and agricultural products through systems that can produce more with less fingerprint; that are resilient to climate variability and external shocks and that are more responsive to changing needs.
With regard to adopting an agribusiness growth strategy, he said it fits both the resource endowment of most African economies and the conditions surrounding the overwhelming majority of the poor who live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
“Agribusiness is substantially labour-intensive in terms of creating jobs and generating value added; in addition, it strengthens forward and backward linkages,” he said, adding: “This entails a paradigm shift from supply to a demand-driven market, in which the agribusiness value chain, covering farming production, processing and services and shifts the transitional focus from production to downstream stages of value chains.”
He underscored the benefits of a sustained demand for agricultural products, stating that a vigorous agribusiness would fuel agricultural production and productivity.