Africa must embrace agricultural innovations to better compete in an evolving global bio-economy, according to findings from a new report issued by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
The report, entitled “GM Agriculture Technologies for Africa,” analyzes the benefits and constraints of adopting genetically modified (GM) technologies to address challenges related to population, poverty, food insecurity and climate change.
Speaking at the launch of the report on September 29, at a conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, commemorating the Africa Year of Agriculture and Food Security, AfDB Vice-President Aly Abou-Sabaa, emphasized the underdevelopment of Africa’s trade in agriculture, especially intra-regional trade, in spite of the vast potential for its expansion.
“In order to meet their food and nutrition requirements, African countries import about $25 billion worth of food each year, but only about $1 billion worth of such imports come from intra-African trade,” said Abou-Sabaa, Vice-President for Agriculture, Water, Human Development, Governance and Natural Resources. “We must implement innovative solutions that can not only bolster agricultural performance, but also promote agri-food trade and food security,” Abou-Sabaa added.
“Agriculture is an economic engine for Africa,” said Shenggen Fan, IFPRI’s Director General. “Biotechnology is among the various technologies being adopted by advanced and emerging agricultural economies and offers the potential to help millions of people become more food secure,” he added.
This report, commissioned by AfDB and prepared by IFPRI, discusses the need to transform Africa’s agriculture sector from one of historically low productivity to one that is a high-potential driver of economic development, drawing on technological and systemic improvements to foster intensification as opposed to extensification. It focuses on GM technologies in particular, as these are the most controversial, directly impacting the adoption rates of biotechnologies in Africa. Based on published evidence about the benefits and constraints of the adoption of these technologies, the report provides an overall, evidence-based snapshot of GM technology in Africa.
While adoption of GM technology has been proceeding in many developing countries, notably in Asia and Latin America, Africa lags behind: of the 54 AfDB member countries, only Burkina Faso, South Africa, and Sudan are now planting and commercializing genetically modified (GM) crops. Other countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda, are making important advances towards the commercialization of GM crops. Progress in most other African countries continues to be quite limited or non-existent.
The report demonstrates underinvestment, weak capacity, and weak regulatory structures for biotechnology in Africa. Therefore, efforts to increase public investment in biotechnology and to upgrade and strengthen science-based, cost-effective regulatory systems should be seen as the highest priority.
About IFPRI: The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. www.ifpri.org