Agro-industries essential for Africa’s development – experts

July 24, 2009 at 9:02 am | Posted in Africa | Leave a comment
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Multi-stakeholder experts meeting at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have called for the promotion of agro-businesses as an essential element to Africa’s industrialisation efforts.

The experts representing governments, international organisations, academia and the private sector, are meeting to review a draft document prepared by ECA on using public-private partnerships as a vehicle for promoting agro-industry and agribusinesses. The meeting which opened on Wednesday, will run until Friday 24 July.

In his opening remarks to the meeting, the director of ECA’s Food Security and Sustainable Development Division, Josue Dione, stated that Africans continue to suffer from poverty and hunger even though it is now more than ten years since the World Food Summit.

“Sure, some progress has been made, but all in all, the poor performance of African agriculture and the persistent food insecurity in the continent remain matters of serious concern,” he said.

He said that although intra-African trade in agriculture remains low, the region imported on average $33 billion worth of agricultural goods annually between 2000 and 2005. “Such a high import bill in face of abundant production potential is symptomatic of a severe structural deficiency of the African food and agriculture systems that needs to be addressed,” he said.

He informed the experts that the final document from this meeting will be used as an advocacy tool in support of the implementation of the resolutions of the African Union Abuja Summit of December 2006 on Food Security.

Also speaking at the meeting, Mafa Chipeta of the Food and Agricultural Organisation called on the meeting to address the core question of why African agriculture remains uncompetitive. “Some international businesses are importing chicken from Brazil and selling them on the African market for a profit,” he said.

He said the experts should therefore address the reasons why African agriculture was uncompetitive even in African markets. He also called on the meeting to critically examine whether public-private partnerships are the best vehicle for promoting African agriculture.

David Njie of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) pointed at the paradox of Africa as “the richest continent with the poorest countries.” He said that UNIDO is attaching the highest priority to agriculture as the sector will be crucial to industrialization, and vice versa.

Some key issues addressed by the experts include the increasing disconnection of African farmers from both input and product markets; the extreme fragmentation of the African food and agricultural markets; how to improve the conceptualisation of regional agricultural value chains; and inter-institutional collaboration for promoting regional value chains.

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