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African agriculture, education and finance members see a strong African commitment to agricultural programmes as critical to unlocking European aid

Budgets for food production

For example, 22 African governments have signed on to the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, (CAADP) which pledges signatories to investing 10 per cent of national budgets toward improved food production. Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Malawi, Burkina Faso, and Senegal are among the countries where agriculture spending already has reached or exceeded that 10 per cent threshold.
Ngongi and Conway identify developing a strong cadre of Africa-trained agriculture experts will be critical to ensuring Africa’s smallholder farmers have access to the technology and knowledge required to increase food production and participate competitively in regional and global markets.

Speaking to British parliamentarians, Conway pointed out a recent World Bank study that found that relatively modest investments in graduate level education programs in Africa could boost per capita GDP by 12 per cent. He called for African governments that have committed within the CAADP to spending 10 per cent of budgets on agriculture to invest a defined portion in programmes at African universities that offer advanced degrees in agriculture-related studies.

Establishing priorities

“Pledging a significant amount to agriculture education is an example of how African governments help establish priorities for their European partners to follow,” Conway said. “European universities have played a direct role in the rapid growth in farm production we experienced in the 20th century, so surely European policy makers understand the link between investments in homegrown agriculture expertise and a viable and competitive farm sector.”

Today, many African regions are demonstrating that with the right kind of assistance, African farmers can produce far more food and provide the foundation of a more food-secure and prosperous continent. “Africans are making admirable progress, but the fact remains that the enormous growth required cannot be accomplished by Africans alone,” Ngongi said. “From rebuilding our neglected university programs to boosting seed production and improving markets, there are many opportunities for Europeans and Africans to achieve a new level of consensus and cooperation and bridge the gap that has emerged between bold pledges of assistance and thus far a failure to deliver on the ground.”

Stephen Williams