Africa: an untapped agricultural potential? 

In 2016, Africa imported nearly $ 35 billion worth of food. While the amount is already impressive, FAO points out that trends indicate that the bill will continue to increase. According to its projections, food imports by sub-Saharan Africa are expected to rise by 11 percent in 2017, reaching around $ 41 billion. A shame when you know the agricultural potential of Africa! As the president of the African Development Bank said recently, "It is Africa that should feed the world, not the other way around."

Indeed, the agricultural potential of Africa is immense. Africa has nearly 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, accounting for nearly 60% of the arable land available worldwide. The current rapid population growth on the African continent is forcing African states to invest in agriculture and to take advantage of this wealth of available land to develop local production. Agriculture and agro-industry are pillars on which Africa must rely to achieve food self-sufficiency.

Image titleWhile the agricultural sector employs nearly 70% of the African labor force and accounts for nearly 25% of GDP, agricultural yields in Africa remain lower than in other developing regions. The African Development Bank therefore focuses on two major areas: improving productivity through better integration of farmers and agro-industries in value chains, while implementing sustainable agriculture to meet in particular the challenge of climate change. Other avenues for improvement are also to be invested, notably the reduction of post-harvest agricultural losses, representing up to 30% of total production.

Far from being captured by agribusiness multinationals, Africa remains a continent where smallholders account for the vast majority of farmers. Nearly 80% of farms in Africa occupy less than two hectares according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The phenomenon of land-grabbing is often magnified because of the huge surfaces bought by multinationals or states. This phenomenon is not to be underestimated, but its scope is to be relativized although it sometimes causes tensions with local populations. The challenge is therefore to create value chains that enable smallholder farmers and agribusiness firms to create a competitive and sustainable ecosystem to lay the foundation for inclusive economic growth for Africa.