Two international conferences held recently in Addis Ababa emphasised that markets and agricultural productivity are key in lifting Africa’s small farmers out of poverty by sustaining and accelerating the growth in Africa observed over the past few years[i].
The conferences brought together high level participants from all over the world to address the issue of how to realise the promise and potential of African agriculture which provides income and livelihood for over 60 percent of Africa’s population.
Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) was represented in both of the conferences by Dr. Samuel Gebreselassie and Dr. Dawit Alemu, who contributed to the success of the conferences.
The first conference on increasing agricultural productivity and enhancing food security in Africa helped participants to exchange ideas and to identify areas for policy actions and further research towards enhancing agricultural productivity and food security in Africa.
The conference also noted that area expansion, rather than increases in land productivity, was the factor behind the recent growth in African agriculture. Future growth, however, should be anchored in improvement in land productivity. As suitable areas for new cultivation decline, future sustainable agricultural growth will require a greater emphasis on productivity growth; this point was highlighted particularly given growing concerns about deforestation and climate change.
The two-day deliberations on enhancing agricultural productivity stressed the need to increase investments in African small-holder agriculture and the need to adopt broader policy and strategic frameworks that encompass the whole agriculture value chain, including agribusiness and agro-industrial sectors as well as farming. African governments and policy makers were also urged to honour their financial commitment to the sector as declared in their 1993 Maputo declaration (CAADP).
Similarly, the conference on commodity exchanges in Africa hoped to study the role and functioning of commodity exchanges and the part they can play in transforming Africa’s agriculture and economies. Diverse issues were discussed including the role of the state in relation to the private sector, the impact of information technology, financial stakes, the effects on the livelihood of farmers and problems ensuing from the volatility of commodity prices. Discussion participants included representatives from emerging African exchanges (from Ethiopia, Ghana, Zambia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa) alongside policy makers and senior development experts drawn from development institutions, investors, farmer organizations and technology companies.
The debate stressed the need for new market mechanisms to ensure efficient and transparent commodity markets, which are said to be critical to move the continent one-step forward to transformational development. An important outcome from the conferences seem to be a widely agreed position on how to maximize the potential of commodity exchanges on the African continent; however, differences on the role and balance between businesses and governments in organising and running commodity exchanges were clear. Many African countries are choosing to leave commodities markets to the private sector, while others are keeping the lead role for the State.
[i] The first conference on Agricultural Productivity and Enhancing Food Security in Africa was held from November 1 – 3 2011 and was convened by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in conjunction with the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The second conference on commodity exchanges in Africa was co-orgnaized by the Ethiopian commodity exchanges and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and was held on November 8 – 9 2011.