Africa’s Agriculture Potential
Africa has tremendous potential in agriculture, but change is needed to capture it. As the global demand for food continues to increase, the continent contains more than half of the world’s uncultivated arable land, featuring a geographic position with year-around warm weather, abundant sunlight, ample water sources and direct sea/air links to worldwide markets.
West Africa is also one of the few regions in the world where, despite rapid urbanization, rural populations are projected to continue to increase and agriculture is widely accepted as a strong driver for rural economic and social development.
The graph on the right highlights West Africa’s potential with both the largest available surface area of arable land, as well as available additional land that can be used for cultivation.
Change Needed to Realize the Potential
However, Africa’s per-hectare yields are the lowest in the world due to historical underinvestment in agriculture and substandard farming practices. Non-industrialized and semi-industrialized farmers lack access to global produce markets, resources, and capital. Lacking access to these markets, Africa’s farmers remain under-financed and forced sell their produce solely in nearby cities for a fraction of their export value which impedes further development.
With the downturn in extractive industries, the countries that have invested in agriculture on the African continent are showing phenomenal resilience, as can be seen from Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, both countries that are investing heavily in agriculture, projected by IMF in 2016 to be the 9th and the 2nd fastest growing economies in the world. With the low level of human capital development found in the region, agriculture is proving to be the main driver for the economic development, but a better business model has to be developed to ensure inclusion of farming communities and semi-industrial farmers in the economic growth.