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Africa can benefit from Korea’s agricultural transformation experience, conference hears

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Transforming Africa’s agriculture was the focus of the second day of the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Conference (KOAFEC) in Seoul.

Addressing Ministers of Finance from African countries, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina highlighted the importance of investing in rural infrastructure, as well as rapidly developing the agro-industrial sector. “Africa should not be a consumption centre. It must export processed cocoa, not cocoa beans; it must export specialized coffee, not coffee beans; and it must export finished textile products, not cotton lint,” he emphasized.

Adesina cited Korea’s experience, once a poor country that was at the same level with Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which now records a Gross Domestic Product that is currently 17 times that of SSA. Korea’s transformation, he said, resulted from economic reform policies that drove structural transformation and investment in various sectors, including agriculture. Korea is now among the top 15 economies globally, and is in the top ranks of major international aid donors.

“Korea’s transformation could not have been achieved without its focus on agricultural transformation, through its popular village model, Saemaul Undong”, he underscored. This approach increased agricultural productivity to achieve food self-sufficiency through massive support for technologies that escalated production, huge investments in rural infrastructure, rural electrification and rural telecommunications. This is what formed the country’s stepping stone for industrialization.

During the meeting, Korea reiterated its commitment to aiding Africa especially through knowledge sharing of its development model. “We are a true partner of Africa and we will contribute to the development of Africa. We must work together towards a brighter future for the African continent,” said Yoo Il-ho, Korea’s Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of State and Finance.

Assistance to Africa’s agriculture sector should also target helping farmers to adapt to climate change. Janvier Manzanares, Acting Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund, underscored the importance of mainstreaming climate change in agriculture systems. He highlighted his organization’s efforts to support smallholder farmers within SSA by strengthening their resilience to the effects of climate change.

The erratic weather patterns that have resulted in short rainy spells and frequent drought require a shift from dependency on rain, according to Eugene Wamalwa, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Water and Irrigation. “Most of Africa’s agriculture is rain-fed. There is an urgent need to move from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation agriculture, and this requires heavy investment in water infrastructure,” Wamalwa said.

Kenya is one of the countries that have signed a co-financing agreement at KOAFEC with the Korea Government and the AfDB seeking to bolster its water supply. Part of the funds in the agreement, Wamalwa said, will be used to invest in irrigation infrastructure.

For more information on KOAFEC, please visit:  

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