Agriculture remains one of Africa’s most important economic sectors, accounting for over 15% of the region’s Gross Domestic Product GDP and providing employment to more than two-thirds of the population.
If the sector’s most notable challenges can be overcome, agriculture could play an even larger part in transforming economies. In particular, governments across the continent are working with international organisations to find solutions to the rising effects of climate change. Nevertheless, the overall is quite bright; cultivated areas are expected to expand and farmers are set to increase their use of inputs, such as fertilisers, improved seeds, irrigation systems and mechanisation.
According to Oxford Business Group Agriculture in Africa report 2019, Africa holds more than 60% of the world’s arable land, but the continent’s share in global agricultural production is low. Vast areas of land are not cultivated and productivity is lower than in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, farming is key for the majority of African economies and accounts for at least 15% of the region’s GDP. In addition, around two-thirds of the African population is employed within the agricultural sector, the vast majority working in small-scale plantations that currently produce at least 90% of overall food production.
The report said chronic long-term underinvestment and poor governance have resulted in an agricultural sector that has been unable to play a role in transforming Africa’s economies, either by ensuring food security, creating jobs or reducing poverty. Now, the sector faces many challenges, the most notable of which is low productivity. This results from a variety of factors, some of which include low use of inputs and irrigation systems. In this context, farmers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change- a fact that has shed light on the need for increased attention an investment in the continent’s promising agricultural sector.
It indicated that Africa’s 30.4 square kilometres boast a diverse range of agro-ecological areas and climates. These include rainforest vegetation with tropical weather, found in the south of West Africa and in Central Africa from Sierra Leone to the Congo’s. Other areas are dry and arid vegetation, such as those countries in the continent’s Sahel region.
‘’This diversity is a tremendous asset, but it also poses a substantial challenge for African agricultural development,’’ Abidjan-based African Development Bank stated on its website. ‘’On the other hand, it creates a vast potential with respect to the mix of agricultural commodities and products which can be produced and marketed in domestic and external markets. On the other hand, the diversity implies that there are no universal solutions to agricultural development problems across the continent’’ it said.
According to Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, during colonial period- which for most African countries ended around the 1960s- agriculture was the most significant sector in the continent’s economy. At this time, farmers were made to produce cash crops which were then exported to European countries as raw materials for their own growing industries. The exported cash crops included: cocoa, coffee, palm oil and rubber from West Africa: cotton from the Sahel region; tea and coffee from East Africa; and tobacco and sugarcane from the south of Africa.
‘’In general, food crops were not promoted and farmers grew them for subsistence only’’ the IFPRI reported. ‘’During the colonial period, Africa was developed essentially as an agricultural-exporting economy. This goal was achieved with some success, as evidenced by the number of African countries being top global producers of tropical cash crops’’. Cote d’Ivoire, for example, has become the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans. Today, the country accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa input.
After independence, the report said many African countries focused on financing local manufacturing and considered agriculture to be a less productive food supplier. As a result, the post-colonial period was characterised by underinvestment in the agricultural and rural sectors. Consequently, Africa’s agriculture recorded poor performance throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with production in sub-Saharan Africa growing on average by only 1% annually between 1971 and 1980, compared with the 3% growth seen throughout Asia. Land productivity was also two to three times lower than that observed in Asia.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the International Monetary Fund IMF and the World Bank pushed for the implementation of structural adjustment programmes SAPs, which were schemes designed for poor nations and countries in crisis, intended to reduce the role of governments in the economy. Countries were asked to implement these SAPS as a pre-condition for loans or external resources. The report said key measures included liberalisation of the economies, with the abolition of regulations such as price controls; privatisation of state-owned companies that were considered to be inefficient, reduction of public expenses and promotion of foreign direct investment FDI.
Further according to the IFPRI, the austerity measures resulted in a reduction of government spending in the sector. In sub-Saharan Africa the share of public agriculture spending inn the total budget declined to an annual average of 3.3% in the 1990s, down from 7.4% in the 1980s. The expansion of cultivated land meant that production growth climbed higher than in the 1970s, though productivity remained low, with output per ha of land at approximately 180 US Dollars in 1990. This was about one-third of the yields producer in Asia.
The report indicated that in 2003 the African Union launched the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme CAADP, a strategy centred on agriculture, with the goal of reducing poverty and ensuring food security. The programme defined agriculture as a main engine of economic growth, and called for African governments to allocate 10% of their annual budget to the sector with the target of 6% annual growth. The Maputo commitments made in 2003 were renewed in 2014 in Malabo Equatorial Guinea.
One of the CAADP’s most notable achievements has been that it ‘’has significantly raised the political profile of agriculture’’ according to the IFPRI. Some 40 countries has signed CAADP agreements by the end of 2014, with many nations designing their own investment plan for the agricultural sector. However, the CAADP’s targets are still far from being met. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa only achieved a 2.6% average annual growth rate in the agricultural sector between 2003 and 2009.
Nevertheless, six countries- Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mozambique, Nigeria and Rwanda- have managed to meet the growth goal of 6%. In regard to the investment target, in 2016 just 13 countries had successfully met their pledge to invest at least 10% of their budget in agriculture.
According to the Alliance for a Green revolution in Africa AGRA: ‘’Progress has generally been slow, mainly because many countries, despite the willingness to do what is right, grapple with capacity challenges that hinder their ability to design and implement a transformational agenda’’ it stated in its 2018 Africa Agriculture Status Report.
AGRA noted that recent policies placing farming at the heart of Africa’s economic development and promoting public investment in the sector are key to developing agriculture across the continent. However, more needs to be done to improve the poor structural governance seen in some African governments: although the private sector dominates the agriculture sector, its success is only made possible with public investments and policies.
‘’The past norm in African countries has been poor governance with respect to the agricultural transformation. Poor government performance has been in part associated with past foreign aid efforts at reducing the size and scope of government. Those policies were felt quite harshly by the agriculture sector, which depends heavily on government actions, and thereby inhibited the growth of the small-scale commercial private sector that dominates the sector. AGRA said. ‘’Fortunately, more recently these foreign aid policies appear to have been reversed, however, the quality of governance continues to be poor in many African countries’’
According to AGRA, Ethiopia, and to a slightly lesser extent Rwanda and Ghana, are positive examples for the continent when it comes to successful large-scale agricultural expansion. For the past 25 years Ethiopia has recorded sector growth above the 6% target defined by the CAADP. The East African nation has massively invested in its agriculture, including in irrigation and made the CAADP in a 50% reduction in rural poverty.
According to Thomas Jaine, professor at Michigan State University, public investments in the agricultural sector have had a direct and measurable impact on productivity. Jaine stated that recent yield improvements were observed in countries that embraced the AU’s CAADP scheme, especially in Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
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Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.
The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.
Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.
“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.
He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.
Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.
“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.
He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.
He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc
“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran
Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.
“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.
Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.
“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.
He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.
“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams
He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .
Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.
“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.