When Africa's top economists, policymakers, business leaders and development practitioners gather in Kigali in March for the first African Transformation Forum (ATF), one of the main discussion topics will be how to use agriculture as a base for the continent's economic transformation.
Agriculture as a foundation for Africa's economic transformation
M.D. Ramesh from Olam, Alemayehu Konde Koira of the MasterCard Foundation, and Kenneth Quartey of Sydal Farms (Ghana) will be part of a panel of experts exploring and discussing these critical issues.
The ATF, which takes place in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 14-15 is organised by the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) in partnership with the government of Rwanda.
"Historically, countries that have managed to pull out of poverty are those that have successfully increased agricultural surplus and used that as a basis for diversifying their economies away from agriculture-based activities," writes Francis Mulangu in the February issue of African Business magazine.
Mulangu, an agricultural economist at ACET writes: "A surplus-generating agricultural sector can provide cheap food, ensuring adequate nutrition for the population -- including its workforce, and also increase the amount of disposable income left to individuals and families after the food bills have been paid. This generates demand for other goods and services, creating direct and indirect jobs".
Surplus production is also used to provide raw materials for industry, setting off a positive chain reaction including production, marketing, distribution and all the other value additions involved, he says.
Agricultural transformation starts by improving productivity. Higher productivity implies that households will have enough food for their own consumption and surpluses to sell in the market to acquire cash and diversify their diets as well as satisfy their non-food needs.
But agricultural productivity in Africa is about one-third that of comparable Asian smallholder farmers. Why is this so? What can stakeholders do to boost productivity? Which crops hold the most promise? Where are the success stories and how can they be duplicated? How can agriculture be used to create jobs?
Credit: African Centre for Economic Transformation
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