African Agric Ministers, Private and Public Sector Leaders push for more investment, less talk
Several African agriculture ministers joined public and private sector representatives calling for more investment in agriculture at a Leadership4Agriculture event held at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda.
Organized by the African Development Bank, the Leadership4Agriculture session facilitated partnerships between policy makers, private investors, institutions and offered participants opportunity to learn more about the Leadership4Agriculture network’s agenda to drive action-oriented, growth enabling investments.
Several ministers at the event criticized what they said was a culture of talk without action.
“Too many of the same declarations are made but are never carried out at the African Union level,” said Côte d’Ivoire Minister of Agriculture, Mamadou Coulibaly.
The African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program in 2003 set a target for African governments to allocate ten percent of national budgets to agriculture. According to AGRF, only 13 African nations have reached or surpassed this goal.
Jennifer Blanke, African Development Bank Vice-President for Agriculture, Social and Human Development, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Managing Director for Africa, Mamadou Biteye, earlier set the tone for the session. They charged their organizations to advance the Leadership4Agriculture mission..
“With [Bank] partners the Rockefeller Foundation, now we have funding for a Secretariat for Leadership4Agriculture, which will allow us to track progress,” said Blanke. “Let us all, together, make Africa shine,” she added.
Agriculture ministers from across the continent, including from Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Gabon, Mozambique, South Sudan, Togo and Mauritius. Rwanda’s former Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, who now serves as President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said ministers need to campaign harder for increased budget funding for smallholders.
“[Agriculture] is a government’s most important industry,” AGRA President Agnes Kalibata told the audience. “Nobody is going to give you money because you are Minister of Agriculture – there are 20 other ministries competing for money. It is [an agriculture minister’s] responsibility to make the case,” she said.
AGRF research indicates farming remains a key source of income for 60 to 65 percent of the labor force in sub-Saharan Africa and will continue to be a major source of employment for a decade or more. Leadership4Agriculture session attendees said the mentality that agriculture is more of a traditional career for those who don’t have alternative r work options, has to change.
Edward Mabaya, Manager of the African Development Bank’s Agribusiness Development Division, said government leaders and farmers should replace the word “agriculture” with “agribusiness.”
Vice-President Blanke announced that the next Leadership4Agriculture event will be held during the African Development Bank’s historic Africa Investment Forum, to be held from 7-9 November in South Africa.
Five African Ministers of Agriculture and Finance, the Rockefeller Foundation and the African Union Commission established Leadership4Agriculture, or L4Ag. The African Development Bank secured support from the Rockefeller Foundation for the establishment of the platform.