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Africa's Agricultural self-sufficiency in one generation?


Infrastructure development

Communications, infrastructure, science, new relationships and universities are key to the continued growth and development of Africa’s agricultural system.

‘In Africa, effective, affordable communications are transforming life — arguably to a degree greater than anywhere else on Earth. Whereas communication has traditionally involved difficult travel, more than 60 per cent of Africans now have access to mobile phones and instant messaging, through which, technical advice is more readily available on how to improve yields, weather, market prices, input costs and disease surveillance. Ordering seeds or supplies, communication with buyers, and even money exchange using airtime credit as a currency are also all far more easily accomplished thanks to mobile devices.’

Roads and transportation limitations cause farmers to reduce production, even when soil, weather and demand allow for better yields. A simple renovation of roads from farms to markets would allow farmers the opportunity to maximise their resources.

Over 40 per cent of Africa’s rural population lives in arid or semi-arid conditions yet only four per cent of the arable land is irrigated. Lakes and rivers could supply water to the many areas that have high-quality soil but too little moisture.

Africa also has vast untapped resources in renewal energy sources like solar and hydro power; particularly useful as Africa’s electricity deficit is no secret.

'Building dams and other generating infrastructure would be relatively inexpensive; the major impediment is constructing transmission grids to move the power to where it's needed,' he notes.

Professor Juma sees the key to the process as the integration of several different initiatives at the same time. All the factors are intrinsically connected – having adequate roads, good communications and standardised trading practices are no use if the crop is affected by a lack of irrigation. Likewise, a high yield due to a scientifically devised crop growth scheme, good irrigation and expansive disease surveillance is of no value if the crop cannot make the journey to market because of poor transport or roads.

Professor Juma has challenged the presidents and prime ministers to coordinate a diverse range of ministries dealing with finance, infrastructure, education, trade and industry to create a regional co-operation, one which will focus on Africa’s immense land, water and energy resources to create a continent that can feed both itself and others in the future.

Ewan Thomson