9 Ways the Agricultural Sector Can Boost African Economies

The agricultural sector has always been a vital part of the African economy, and it is still one of the most important sectors on the continent. Unfortunately, the sector has not been given the attention it deserves, and this has resulted in poor performances.

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Since the beginning of time, Africa has been known as a continent of farmers, and it’s no wonder why. Agriculture has been a great way to make a living in Africa because of the availability of land and crops.

Africa is blessed with an abundance of natural resources which include land, water and minerals. The continent also has a large population, which is a major advantage when it comes to agriculture.

Despite this, most African countries have not been able to exploit these resources to their full potential. This is mainly because of the lack of sound policies and institutions that are needed to boost the agricultural sector.

Starting a business is an expensive venture, and it’s often difficult to raise the capital required to fund the initial investment.

Most agricultural businesses require a lengthy and expensive route to go from idea to launch, and this is often made even more difficult by the lack of stability in the economy and the scarcity of investment capital.

In most Sub-Saharan African countries, it is not uncommon to see small-scale farmers trying to make ends meet by cultivating only one crop. These farmers are frequently unable to generate sufficient income to re-invest or grow their farming business.

Agricultural Sector Policies & Lack of Implementation

Sub-Saharan African governments need to come up with more policies to help boost the agricultural sector.

In 2021, agricultural imports from Ghana alone stood at about $1.9 billion with about 8% of this coming in from the United States of America – that’s $156.6 million [Source: International Trade Administration].

This is coming after the policymakers, in 2018, planned to come up with policies that will increase investment in the agricultural sector by the private sector.

Most Sub-Saharan African governments come up with great policies for agriculture, but unfortunately many are not successful when it comes to implementing them. These policies are useless without a solid implementation plan.

Meanwhile in Rwanda, the agricultural sector employs about 62.2% of total employment [Source: International Trade Administration]. Policy makers in Rwanda have put agriculture as a priority sector and remains a key sector in their efforts to foster development in the private sector.

The government of Rwanda aims at replacing subsistence farming with a fully technology-intensive commercial agriculture by 2050.

Reasons Policies in Agricultural Sector Fail

Here are some common reasons why companies fail to implement policies:

1) They make the policies but don’t train people to follow them. The policies of African governments are often unrealistic or unenforceable, which leads to people not following them. As it turns out, for Sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural policies are not only food, but they are also social policies.

Poor agricultural policy can mean that people are unable to get enough food to eat, and thus, they are forced to migrate to cities. On the other hand, good agricultural policy can mean that people can grow and sell their own food, so that they are less likely to migrate to cities.

2) They make the policies but don’t communicate them to people. Agricultural policies are a key area of government intervention in many developing countries. However, these policies are not always communicated to the citizens, which can result in confusion.

For example, many policy changes are not mentioned in the media. This may lead to farmers believing that an existing policy is still in effect, which could be expensive for farmers.

Also, the information that the Sub-Saharan African governments release are often too complicated for ordinary citizens to understand.

3) They make the policies but don’t follow them themselves. Many policies are not implemented properly – they are set in place but not followed. They are too complicated – it is very difficult to understand how a policy works, and how to implement it.

They do not change them when the results don’t meet their expectations, when the people implementing them are up to the task, and they never the people following them are learning and growing.

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Agricultural Sector Can Boost the Economies of Sub-Saharan Africa

Agriculture is one of the key sectors that can help to drive Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth and development. However, its contribution to the continent’s economy has been declining in recent years. This is mainly because the sector has not been given the attention it deserves.

Although the sector has been disrupted by the recent crises (Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine), the sector still offers some great opportunities for governments that come up with policies that improve investment in agriculture. Here are nine ways Agriculture can boost economies in Sub-Saharan Africa:

1. Improve Food Security

Food security is a big issue in Sub-Sahara Africa, and the agricultural sector can help address it.

Good agricultural policies means improved food security. It ensures that farmers are able to produce food in sufficient quantities and quality for local, regional and global markets. It also guarantees that farmers have the tools they need to produce food sustainably.

By improving food production and distribution, we can make sure that everyone has access to food.

Examples of such agricultural policies are the Green Revolution in India, the land reform in Germany.

The Green Revolution in India, which began in the 1960s, led to a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity in India. This was achieved by applying new and improved agricultural practices to existing fields, creating new fields and introducing new genetic strains to the country.

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These efforts led to a dramatic increase in the yields of wheat, rice, maize, and a variety of other vegetables and grains. This led to an increase in food availability along with improved nutrition.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the government’s land reform program which began in the 1990s improved food security for the country. It “consolidated” family farms into larger holdings, and required all farmers renting from the government to lease their land to the state at a market price.

Since the German government implemented the land reform program, the number of small and medium-sized farmers in Germany increased. The fertilizer industry was also developed, which increased the productivity of the crops in the country. This led to an increase in the production of grain, milk and meat, and the supply of food and feed for the people of Germany.

2. Boost Economic Growth

The agricultural sector is one of the biggest drivers of economic growth in Africa. It employs many people, especially in rural areas. The sector can help to reduce unemployment and poverty levels in the continent.

Good agricultural policies will have a tremendous impact on economic growth. It has been estimated that the average agricultural policy can add more than 2% to an economy’s growth rate.

This is because agricultural policies affect food production and food prices, which in turn affect consumer spending and economic growth.

If governments divert a little attention to this sector, it can help to create more jobs and improve the standard of living for people across the continent.

3. Promote Rural Development

Rural development is a key goal of most African governments. The agricultural sector can help to promote it by providing farmers with the tools they need to succeed.

Agribusiness is the largest industry sector in many developing countries; in fact, most of the world’s population is dependent on agriculture for sustenance. This is why the agricultural sector is so vital to the livelihoods of developing nations.

There are some agricultural policies that can be very beneficial in promoting rural development. Here are a few examples:

  • Support small farmers by increasing access to inputs and credit, thereby promoting greater productivity and improving income.
  • Support the small farmers by developing local markets and infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, and transportation.
  • Promote rural development through the use of renewable and sustainable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
  • Provide agricultural training and technical assistance to the rural population in order to help them improve their productivity.

4. Fight Poverty

Agricultural development can help to reduce poverty in Sub-Sahara Africa. By providing farmers with the tools they need to succeed. Governments can help them to get out of poverty and move into a more prosperous future.

Currently, according to the United Nations, nearly one in ten people around the world doesn’t have access to enough food to meet their basic needs. This is a serious problem that is exacerbated by climate change, which leads to droughts and floods, and results in major crop failures.

Good agricultural policies can fight poverty by creating a more stable supply of food and other basic needs. For example, agricultural policies can:

  • Provide free seed to farmers and ensure that they have their own land and the means to grow their own food.
  • Offer low-interest loans, so farmers can purchase equipment and tools to increase production.
  • Provide subsidies for farmers to encourage them to use environmentally friendly practices.
  • Maximize the food processing industry, which can then export more of its products to help reduce poverty.

According to the UN, agricultural policies and trade policies that are designed to help people living in poverty are key to addressing this problem.

5. Help to Address Environmental Issues

The agricultural sector can play a role in addressing environmental issues in Africa. By improving crop production and reducing waste, we can help to protect the environment.

Agriculture is one of the most important industries in terms of environmental impact, and as a result agriculture policies play an important role in the environmental sustainability. By practicing agroecology, rural areas can help to alleviate poverty, and environmental problems.

Agroecology is the practice of combining traditional farming methods with modern science to achieve sustainable production of agricultural crops. It is an approach that is being increasingly adopted by governments and farmers to reduce the impact of climate change and improve food production and nutrition.

6. Strengthen Infrastructure

The agricultural sector needs strong infrastructure in order to be successful. This includes roads, ports, and other facilities that are essential for the sector to function. Agricultural policies that promote rural development can help build this infrastructure.

Good agricultural policies can be a great way to strengthen the infrastructure in your country. For example, subsidies and incentives help farmers invest in equipment and facilities that are needed to grow food. This allows them to work more efficiently, so they can produce more food.

7. Promote Rural Entrepreneurship

Rural entrepreneurs are key to the success of the agricultural sector in Africa. They can help to promote innovation and growth in the sector.

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There is a huge gap between the poor and rich countries in Africa. This gap is mostly due to the fact that most of the rich countries, for example, Rwanda and Morocco, have been able to promote agricultural policies that have made farming more profitable. These policies include the following:

  • Price subsidies for farmers.
  • Cheap credit for farmers who cannot afford to buy fertilizer and seeds.
  • Microcredit programs for farmers.
  • Cheap credit to farmers for mechanization.
  • Export restrictions on agricultural products.
  • Support for agriculture extension services
  • Agricultural research laboratories
  • Agricultural technologies, such as irrigation
  • Agricultural technology training for farmers
  • Growing economies in rural areas
  • Industry development in rural areas

Many African countries have implemented policies and programs to encourage rural entrepreneurship. The main goal of good agricultural policies is to promote rural entrepreneurship, which has proved successful in countries such as Malawi and Kenya.

Kenya, for example, in partnership with The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, in 2008 launched a Revolutionary US$ 50 Million Farm Program to provide small-scale farmers and farm businesses financing and credit, which aims to accelerate the growth of rural and small-scale businesses. The project seeks to develop a culture of entrepreneurship in rural communities by providing services to entrepreneurs and supporting them in operating their businesses.

A key component of the program is the provision of innovative financial services to rural entrepreneurs, so they can manage their businesses more effectively and sustainably

This is because new rural entrepreneurs often have ideas for new products or services that would be useful in the local market. If a rural entrepreneur can create a market for these products, they can often develop a sustainable business.

8. Reduction of food imports

The agricultural sector can help to reduce the amount of money that African countries spend on food imports. This is because the sector is capable of producing a large amount of food, reduce food imports and keep African farmers in business.

This can be a positive development as it helps to reduce food prices and improve the nutritional value of African diets.

However, there are some drawbacks to these policies, such as increasing the cost of food imports and causing food shortages in general.

The key is to formulate policies that are specific to the African agriculture sector and that are designed to promote local production.

Read Also: Cameroon Government Impose Import Duty On Some Agricultural Products

9. Improvement of trade balance

The agricultural sector can help to improve Africa’s trade balance. It is a key driver of economic growth in Africa. The continent is the largest producer of agricultural commodities, reason this sector is often targeted for structural adjustment and reform.

Farm income has declined while production costs have increased, leading to higher food prices for consumers and a trade imbalance for Africa.

Good agricultural policies in Africa can lead to the improvement of trade balance, because the agricultural products can be exported to other countries. Africa is a big exporter of agricultural products, but it exports only about 15% of its agricultural products and in its primary stage.

With the advent of technology, most people have neglected this important sector, opting for modern sectors that seem more lucrative. The truth is, agriculture still offers many opportunities for those who are willing to explore it.

Governments in Africa should, therefore, come up with policies that will help to boost the agricultural sector.

If we want to boost African economies, we need to invest in agriculture.

Image Credit: Mariant Kernyuy, Founder – Ideal Farmers

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