Food insecurity and poverty will continue to persist on the continent unless a proper strategy is formulated to encourage private investments in agriculture sector, participants at an agribusiness forum in Kigali have said.
The three-day conference has attracted government officials across the continent, businesspersons as well as economists to devise ways of encouraging private investments in agriculture.
Participants said agriculture has not attracted the attention of the private investors in Africa, a challenge that leads to continued importation of foodstuff, and perpetuates poverty.
Another challenge highlighted is lack of youth participation in the sector due to traditional conception that agriculture is for elders yet it provides more than 65 per cent of jobs on the African continent.
Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the Nigerian minister for agriculture, said there was still a problem of undermining the sector.
He said new strategies like use of technology in the sector are required. Nigeria, he added, uses cell phones to reach out to farmers and provide them with fertilisers and other required materials.
“We don’t know where the farmers are, what they are doing and what they need from us, but this has boosted food security in Nigeria. Any country that depends on another for food has a problem,” he said, adding that the future of Africa is bright if African countries rely on agriculture.
Premier urges continent
Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi said it was the time for Africa to review and embark on a market-oriented system of production instead of depending on subsistence farming.
He said governments should establish conducive environment to attract private investors in the sector, adding that Rwanda has achieved a lot through the same.
Starting a company in the country takes only six hours, the premier said. Other incentives in the sector have seen investors establishing agribusiness exempted from work permit, he added.
Habumuremyi called upon African countries to invest at least 10 per cent of National Budget in the sector.
Prof. Pierre Mathijsen, the president EMRC, an international NGO that promotes Africa’s sustainable development, said they were ready to continue supporting the financial and technical support to ensure the inclusion of investments in the sector.
“Africa is capable of fighting food insecurity and this can only be done through investing in agricultural sector,” Prof. Mathijsen said.
He reiterated the need to introduce new technological methods of farming, citing irrigation system that has worked for Rwandan farmers.
Tony Nsanganira, the chief operations officer of Rwanda Development Board, said investments in agriculture have increased because of conducive policies.
“Since 13 years ago when we started registering investments in agriculture, we have recorded $550 million (about Rwf368 billion) of private investments in the sector and 50 per cent of this has been registered in the last three years,” he told this paper on the sidelines of the summit.