AGRICULTURE, A TRILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY STILL TIED TO THE POOR
Mrs Ndidi Nwuneli, founder of LEAP Africa, says there is a dire need for a deliberate policy of enabling agriculture entrepreneurs just like in other sectors. Speaking at the 2nd UBA Africa Day Conversations, Mrs. Nwuneli, said the importance of agriculture can never be over-emphasised, especially with growing unemployment.
She reminded that Africans are dealing with a trillion dollar industry which they still tie to poor people. According to her, “in our minds we instinctively think agriculture is for the poor and lowly. “This is a $1 trillion industry and we are neglecting it; therefore, my charge is that we invest in the agricultural sector, prioritise it, leverage it, transform our educational system to prepare our young people for this sector, change the mindset, and trade with each other,”
Of course, it still boils down to a deliberate policy of enabling agriculture entrepreneurs — those who think of the agric business the same way they will of banking, ICT or construction. It is a business that can employ engineers, accountants, marketers, doctors, and virtually every professional. It is not about hoe and cutlass alone. It is not hand-to-mouth. It offers the biggest potential to absorb millions of our youth who are jobless. We cannot change our understanding of these simple issues if we do not change our mindsets” she said. The founder regretted that across Sub-Saharan Africa, policies that should push agriculture to the highest level of value-generation are mostly on paper. “Things can take a better turn if we begin to see tomorrow as today, rather than think that we have all the time in the world. Addressing our realities of today
Prof Benedict Okey Oramah, president and chairman of the board of directors of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), advocated that the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement be “swift”. Afreximbank, he said, has kept aside $200 million for the supply of fertilisers and grains around Africa. Definitely, if we focus too much on the coronavirus and do nothing on food, hunger will spring up and devastate the continent even more. “If Africa allows hunger to take over the people, it will see an increase in insecurity, which will take a long time to overcome,” he warned.
Oramah pointed out the “bitter” truth: that the pandemic has shown that a time comes when Africans must fend for themselves. That, he said, is the “positive message” from the outbreak and in practical terms, we are not short of ideas and opportunities. He said: “What COVID-19 has taught us is that there comes a time that people fend for themselves, there comes a time when you must be independent… I hope that the message this COVID-19 is teaching us about independence should help us to integrate our countries better so that we can trade better and invest among ourselves better and promote our growth and development as a people without always looking out for others to bail us out.”