Investment commitments by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Development Partners to help improve the agricultural sector in Africa have doubled to US$7.2 billion, according to the 2013 Grow Africa Annual Report .
The private BusinessDay newspaper Monday quoted the report as saying that of the US$7.2 billion in new commitments, Grow Africa partners have already invested US$970 million, leading to the creation of 33,000 new jobs and assistance to 2.6 million smallholder farmers throughout the continent.
“The 2013 Grow Africa report shows good progress on many fronts, but overall, it shows that the level of investment, and the speed and reliability of reforms to the sector remain too slow to be truly transformative for Africa’s smallholders,” Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, was quoted as saying in reaction to the report.
Grow Africa is a programme co-founded in 2012 by WEF, NEPAD Agency and the African Union Commission (AUC) to accelerate the transformation of African agriculture.
It is an African-owned, country-led, market-based and inclusive approach to support implementation of Africa’s plan for agricultural transformation through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
The report, which was released on Friday, a few days to the start of the WEF on Africa, to be hosted by Nigeria in its capital city, Abuja, noted that most investments to date have been made by companies from within the continent, with half of all invested funds directed to Nigeria.
The increase in agricultural investments, as outlined in the report, is consistent with a broader growth trend in African agriculture which the World Bank said will triple in size by 2030 to become a US$1 trillion industry.
The report highlighted some promising models in the new public sector bodies such as the Agricultural Transformation Agency in Ethiopia, as well as frameworks to attract private sector investment into specific regions, including Tanzania’s Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor (SAGCOT).
It identified some of the challenges that Africa’s agriculture sector must address if it is to achieve its full potential.
These include lack of access to and affordability of relevant financial products, lack of alignment between (and within) public sector institutions and the private sector, which slows down, or deters, investments and project execution.
“Governments must accelerate action to improve the enabling environment in response to market priorities and the private sector must innovate and be willing to take on and share risk,”
said Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the AUC.
“The year 2014 is a clarion call for concerted efforts by governments, farmers, development partners and private sector players to sustain CAADP momentum,” the Commissioner said.
Chief Executive Officer of Grow Africa Arne Cartridge said the focus for 2014 would remain on creating better linkages between stakeholders and projects to accelerate the speed of return on investment.
“We will also put specific emphasis on projects that engage African youth at a time when so many are moving to cities. Nearly 90 percent of rural youth who work in agriculture, contributing up to one third of Africa’s GDP and we cannot afford to lose this growth driver,” Cartridge said.