The West Africa Monitor Quarterly, Issue 4 Unleashing the agro-industry potential of the region

28/11/2014
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The African Development Bank has released the latest edition of The West Africa Monitor Quarterly.

“West Africa’s growth remains strong, but it is likely to slow down, mostly due to the drop in oil and mineral prices”, says Emanuele Santi, AfDB regional economist for West Africa.

The report also highlights how the Ebola crisis continues to affect the region, while finding that the economic effect of Ebola outside the three most affected countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia) are so far limited. 

The report reviews recent developments in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.  These countries present a largely positive growth perspective, even if faced with concerns over issues such as rising debt, security and political risk, and commodity dependence.

The report highlights the role of agriculture, which employs 60% of the active population and generates one third of the region’s GDP, and more particularly of agri-business, the potential of which is still untapped.

The report points out that  only one third of  the arable land in the region is cultivated, and that yields are still among the lowest in the world. “The growth potential is huge”, says Santi, “through the increase of land usage, and through higher productivity resulting from increased transformation and processing of primary agricultural products”.

There is potential for higher growth, due to a rising demand for food products, improved access to international markets, and the advent of new technologies. The report highlights the vital importance of public policies to support agribusiness, and shows how countries’ efforts to put private sector led agricultural transformation at the core of their development strategy are paying off.  It cites the example of Nigeria’s Agriculture Transformation Agenda, which has attracted over 5 Billion USD of private investments in the past 3 years, and slashed the country’s food import bill from nearly 7 Billion USD in 2009 to 4.3 Billion USD in 2013.

The report offers a number of recommendations for policy makers to unleash the potential of the agribusiness sector. These include promoting innovation and broadening access to finance, developing strategies which emphasize the role of agricultural smallholders and small entrepreneurs, establishing agriculture value capture programs and business linkages, and improving access to information on agro-industrial production.