Africa ties its agricultural transformation agenda to COP21 climate outcome

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A high level panel of African agricultural experts has said that the continent’s agricultural transformation depends on the successful outcome of the climate negotiation process.

Speaking during a panel discussion organised by the African Development Bank at the ongoing UN climate change conference (COP21) in Paris, France, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), said the future of Africa depends on agriculture.

However, Adesina says Africa’s agricultural transformative agenda will not be possible if the continent does not get the resources to adapt to climate change.

“The danger that Africa will not be able to feed itself is a real one. And if we don’t have the resources to adapt to climate change, Africa will not be able to unlock its potential in agriculture,” the AfDB President said during a debate on climate change variability and its implications on Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda.

The panel discussion, which included the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, and World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, among other renowned agricultural experts, highlighted the strong link that exists between climate change adaptation and the continent’s ambitious goal of making agriculture central to Africa’s economic transformation.

The importance and need to transform Africa’s agriculture has been highlighted by several development partners owing to its natural resource endowment, with the continent boasting 65% of the world’s remaining arable land.

However, even with such potential, Africa is the net importer of goods it can produce, and in the process is believed to spend around US $35 billion importing food, when it should be exporting.

A further irony is that while this is the case, agriculture provides the source of livelihood for 70% of the continent’s population, and it is for this reason that African leaders have over the years been brainstorming on ways in which to transform the sector.

The continent’s blueprint for development, Agenda 2063, targets the creation of 122 million jobs by 2063. But this ambitious goal hangs in the balance as climate change is already threatening to reverse even what little gains have been made.

In her submission to the debate, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime said unless Africa gets a good deal at COP21, the continent will not be able to transform agriculture.

“Unless we get a good deal here, that will help with the right technology, we will not be able to modernize and transform agriculture,” she said.

Therefore, all eyes of Africa are focused on the COP21 climate negotiations with a particular focus on adaptation and its financing mechanism, a critical component that Africa has been calling for over the years.

The continent’s glaring realities of climate change effects range from droughts and floods in Southern Africa; shrinking rivers and lakes, with the classic example of Lake Chad and the Niger Basin; deforestation; erosion of its shorelines, coupled with the risk of rising seawater levels; encroaching deserts; and water stress and shortages in the Sahel region of the continent; among others.

Africa’s agricultural vulnerability to climate change largely due to the continent’s dependency on rainfall for production.

While World Bank Vice-President Makhtar Diop agrees that climate change offers a fundamental uncertainty, he believes all hope is not lost as there still exists a huge irrigation potential in Africa.

“Climate change is the fundamental uncertainty, but if we diversify Africa’s economy, and put in the right technology and policies, we can sustain the continent’s economic growth that has been seen for the past ten years,” he said.

The panelists agreed that, while opportunities may be abound for Africa’s agricultural transformation, climate change remains a dark cloud hovering around the continent’s sustainable development future leading to the conclusion that unless Africa adapts to climate change, it will not unlock agricultural potential.

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