Kanayo Nwanze will meet leaders in Uganda and call for innovation in agriculture to create employment for youth
Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will travel to Ethiopia on 8th May to join 700 global and pan-African leaders who will converge for the regional World Economic Forum (WEF) to deliberate on the overarching theme ‘Shaping Africa's Transformation.' The conference, in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa - which is home to African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa - will focus on three main issues: strengthening leadership, accelerating investments and scaling up innovations in Africa.
Agriculture remains a critical sector for African economies. It accounts for about 30 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa's gross domestic product and a high portion of export value. In most countries, agriculture accounts for more than 60 per cent of employment. IFAD's experience has been that if given the right support, smallholder farmers can double or triple their production, even in the face of climate change and environmental degradation.
"Africa is rich in human resources and in natural potential," Kanayo said on the eve of his departure. "We have seen in South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo, just to name a few, that transformation is possible, even when it means overcoming the legacy of conflict and natural disasters. Our challenge is to take what we know works and apply it, country-by-country, region-by-region, until this transformation is a reality, not just in individual areas or nations, but throughout Africa."
Prior to the WEF Africa conference, Kanayo will visit Uganda. Although the country is food secure, there are areas in northern and eastern Uganda with severe food shortages. More investment in agriculture and new innovations would help Uganda to improve their use of natural resources, to produce enough food to feed the country and the entire East Africa region. The country has reduced poverty remarkably, from 56 per cent in 1993 to 24.5 per cent in 2009, already meeting Millennium Development Goal 1.
While in the country, he will meet the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, the Minister of Finance, Maria Kiwanuka, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Assuman Kiyingi, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Tress Buchanayande and the Minister of Local Government, Adolf Mwesige. He also will visit two IFAD-supported projects in the country - the Vegetable Oil Development Project and the Rural Financial Services Programme - to meet beneficiaries and learn first-hand how they have improved their lives.
Kanayo will then head to Addis Ababa where he will speak at the WEF session ‘Africa's Green Agenda'. He will address the potential of smallholder farmers and call for African governments and the private sector to work together to overcome the ‘nexus' of challenges - poverty, hunger, climate change, environmental degradation, and conflict - facing the world today. He will emphasise how smallholder farmers and their organisations have the potential to increase food security on the continent. Attendees of the WEF Africa conference will be a mix of heads of state, and leaders from business and development such as Kofi Annan, Chairman, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Africa Progress Panel, Monhla Hlahla, Chairperson, Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Ltd., and Doug McMillon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Wal-Mart International, among others.
"We have seen the renewed commitment to agriculture by donor countries and international financing institutions," Kanayo said. "There has also been increased funding from emerging economies. And developing countries have also mobilized resources for agriculture. What we need now is that same kind of energy from the private sector to invest in and work in partnership with smallholder farmers and farmer organizations to meet the world's challenges of a growing population and competition for natural resources."
With the G8 economic summit and the Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development on the horizon, he will outline at the Forum how farmer organizations have the potential to produce quality products that meet the needs of the private sector only if they are given the additional support and infrastructure they need.
In particular Kanayo's message will be that African governments should better evaluate the impact of policy decisions on smallholder farmers and their organisations, and create a suitable environment that will entice the private sector to invest more in agriculture. The private sector should connect the missing market links so that smallholder farmers can get their products from the farm to the shelves of supermarkets.