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ECOWAS advocates enabling policy for Africa’s agric devt

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said that agribusiness development in Nigeria and other countries in Africa requires the provision of an enabling policy, legal and economic environment. The Head of Agriculture Division, ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Ernest Aubee, explained that agriculture in the continent remains one of the most important sectors, saying that the share of agriculture in the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had increased to 19.9 per cent in 2020/2021 from 17.8 per cent in 2019/2020.

He stressed that agribusiness contributed approximately 25 per cent of Africa’s GDP and provided 70 per cent employment, while agriculture-based products accounted for over 50 per cent of all exports from Africa. Aubee noted at an African agribusiness webinar in a paper titled: “Sustainable Agribusiness in Africa,” that increased public and private sector investments on the continent was critical, adding that agribusiness has the potential to drive the socio-economic development of Africa. He said: “Agribusiness refers to the enterprises, industry and field of study of value chains in agriculture and in the bio-economy. It refers to a combination of agriculture and business activities that seek to achieve specific objectives of profitability efficiency and effectiveness and embrace the value chain concept of agriculture from production to consumption.

“However, challenges are access to finance for smallHolder farmers; poor infrastructure from farms to markets, (processing, packaging and markets), inadequate transport networks (road, sea, air), limited agricultural technologies, availability of relevant macro and sectoral policies and regulations to drive the sector; lack of commitment to investments in agriculture in accordance with SDG, AU Agenda 2063/Malabo Declaration, ECOWAP etc. “Also, there is limited local private sector engagements and education and modernisation of agribusiness in Africa.” He recommended building human capacities in the agribusiness value chain with emphasis on women, youths and the poor.

Also, Aubee pointed out the need for promotion of value addition to agricultural commodities as well as investment in rural infrastructure, while creating crop processing zones not just for export crops but also for food crops. He said: “The continent has 1,119 million hectares of agricultural land which constitutes 40per cent of the continent’s land area. Irrigated area stands at 13 million hectares, representing six per cent of cultivated area, hence investments in agribusiness are key to ending poverty, improving livelihoods, revitalising national economies from post-COVID-19 and cushioning the impact of Russia/Ukraine war on the continent. The ECOWAS official described AfCFTA as a singular opportunity for food security, trade and development, urging for improved energy access for producers, processors and marketers while promoting climate smart and nutrition sensitive agriculture in Africa to enhance trading on the continent.” Aubee called for the promotion of effective and innovative financing across Africa and up-scaling of agribusiness best practices in the rice value chain in Nigeria and Mali as well as cashew in Cote D’Ívoire and Guinea Bissau.

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