Agriculture calls for a new thinking
By 2050, major demographic shifts in the world will happen in the least developed nations. Estimates point that the 49 least developed countries will double the population size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050. More than half of these are African nations. These population trends coupled with rapid increase in urbanization and climate change issues indicate that the world stands at a tipping point.
Food security is moot
Africa is key to tackling the food security concerns of the world
- Africa alone has surface area (land) greater than China, USA, European Union, India, Argentina and Japan combined
- However, 54 nations making up Africa – around 20% of world’s land mass or 25 percent of the world’s arable land – generate only 10 percent of global agricultural output.
- Groundwater in Africa is more abundant than other continents. It has been recently estimated that groundwater in Africa is 100 times the continent’s annual renewable freshwater resources, and 20 times the freshwater stored in African lakes
- If we are able to correctly store the water in African river systems, it would allow greater productivity in African agriculture.
The USP of African agriculture lies in the scope for improvement. It is huge. Africa has the lowest yields of any global region, and huge tracts of land remain unutilized. FAO points that average cereal yield increases in Africa can be higher than the world average. World average cereal yield is growing at a linear rate for the past five decades. In Africa, not only can yields be increased, but more land can also be brought under cultivation. For instance, potato yields in Mauritius were 21 tonnes / hectare in 2012 as opposed to 45 tonnes in Netherlands (FAO). Further, less than 5% of total arable land in Africa is irrigated. Besides, land utilization, agricultural productivity in Africa can also be improved through judicious application of inputs (seed, irrigation and fertilizers) and broad-basing technology adoption across the value chain (storage and processing) and improving access to credit.
…If you only increase productivity by 50 percent in Africa, Africa will go from food deficit to food surplus.. source
The challenge for Africa is also an opportunity. And, it requires a concerted and coordinated inter-governmental and public-private action.
Intergovernmental action on Food Security
Alleviating food production in Africa needs a significantly close coordination between nations. There is a need for robust inter-government measures in promoting agricultural science, technology adoption, agri-extension and knowledge dissemination, and infrastructure development.
India, especially, is geared for the African challenge as the two continents have near similar farming systems. African nations are already interested to learn how India boosted its domestic seed production. African nations are also reaching out to the world off late. Kenya is establishing embassies with a view to deepen its economic diplomacy. The recent conclusion of the Bali Package, which is hailed as a significant victory for developing nations, especially India, was made possible by the united voice of developing nations. India’s principled position at Bali resonated with several African nations including South Africa, Mauritius, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone.
India and Africa have lots to gain by further deepening the relations and finding a common ground for bilateral co-operation.
Anchoring Public-Private and Private-Private co-operation
A vigorous inter-government action is one aspect of the picture, the other being, encouraging private sector of both the continents to come forward and collaborate, with both the public as well as the private sector. Several win-win initiatives are already there. They need be scaled-up across Africa. For instance, a leading Indian company in agri-business, Karuturi Global Limited is operating in Ethiopia, and is not only helping the domestic economy by employing 95% of its workforce from the local market, it is also providing modern production technology as well as contributing to uplifting the socio-economic status through its CSR initiatives. The company has more than 9% share of the European cut flower market.
The potential of Indo-African collaboration needs no better explanation than the two above.
Asia Africa Agribusiness Forum
There is a lot to achieve by anchoring a well-meaning co-operation between Africa and India. It is time we do, and at an unprecedented pace. Realizing the significance, FICCI is anchoring Asia Africa Agribusiness Forum along with the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. Our initiative among other things aims to bring together African nations and the private sector along with their counterparts in India to a platform to discuss and deliberate over issues of co-operation, and finally bring the ideas to action.
 From the discussions & presentation by S R Karuturi of Karuturi Global at Conclave on International Commercial Farming, 2010 | FICCI