From Sierra Leone to Chad, Africa remains one of the world’s fastest growing regions. In the past decade and a half, the only global region to grow consistently faster than Sub-Saharan Africa has been developing Asia. Africa’s average incomes have risen by a third.
Oil, gas, and minerals have been driving much of this growth in countries such as Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Mozambique. But non-extractive sectors – including agriculture – have been key in countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, and Ethiopia,. Despite Africa’s impressive growth, however, too few people are benefitting. Inequality is growing.
And more than 413 million people still live below the poverty line. Just four countries — Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Ethiopia – account for half of Africa’s poor.
African governments could reduce this poverty by boosting agriculture, a sector that supports two thirds of all African people. Indeed, Africa could feed itself but instead it imports food worth US$35 billion per year.
Food production in Sub-Saharan Africa is falling behind. It now exports less than Thailand.
But Africa’s applied tech innovations show African creativity when given the right opportunity. Developed by Africans for Africa and the world, this digital and mobile technology is accelerating Africa’s productivity growth.
Indeed Africa’s agricultural productivity could easily double within five years.
Urbanisation, hunger, and the heavy cost of food import bills mean that Africa must produce more food. Africa could – and should – produce enough food to feed Africa and the world.
Global population is set to grow from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by 2050. Urban populations will grow even faster. Global food demand is expected to double. This is an excellent commercial opportunity for African agriculture.
The 2014 Africa Progress Report – Grain, Fish, Money – urges African governments to invest more in their agricultural sectors, which directly affects two thirds of Africa’s population
The examples of Zambia Liberia, and Mozambique show that time, effort, and money can produce impressive agricultural growth. Growing agricultural sectors can drive national growth too, benefitting the wider population more generally.
The 2014 Africa Progress Report also highlights illegal practices, such as the plunder of Africa’s timber and fisheries that hit the continent hard.
Illegal logging costs the continent an estimated US$17 billion ever year, while, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing costs West Africa alone a conservatively estimated US$1.3 billion every year.
Foreign boats are not just taking fish, they are stealing food, jobs, and income.
Tax avoidance and evasion are major issues too. Africa has been losing an estimated 5.7 percent of its GDP to illicit financial flows, more than any other region in the world. Worth US$50 billion each year, this is more than the continent spends on health.
Africa is rich in its natural resources, including agricultural resources. But this wealth must reach more people. We all win from an Africa that is prosperous, stable, and fair.