The message that leaders took away from the World Economic Forum in Africa in Addis Ababa last month is that Africa’s time as a bona fide growth engine is near, and when it comes to developing a new vision for agriculture, the continent is a world leader.
It is only a year ago since the last World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town that the African Union, NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) and the Forum convened the Grow Africa partnership – an African-led, country-owned multistakeholder platform that seeks to accelerate investments and transformative change in African agriculture. The success of such a partnership though can only be achieved through the involvement of all stakeholders – from smallholder farmers and local consumers to international donors and agribusiness – in a way that brings inclusive economic growth for everyone.
Grow Africa received a significant boost in May 2012 when US President Barack Obama – on the eve of the G8 Summit in Washington DC – announced that more than 45 countries have committed to invest over US$ 3 billion in African agriculture. This commitment from the private sector, which includes investing in new technology, skills and capacity that will help realize Africa’s potential to feed its population and become a net exporter, were developed in collaboration with Grow Africa.
The investments will also deliver social benefits, such as improving nutrition while reducing migration to the cities. Twenty-one African companies have signed on to the commitments, demonstrating that African businesses will be a key partner in realizing this potential, especially at the local level.
All of us involved in Grow Africa hope that the momentum can be maintained and that agricultural growth will help improve living standards across the continent as a whole. But this is only the beginning.
Grow Africa is one of a series of action-oriented, public-private partnerships that are part of the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative. This initiative brings key stakeholders together to realize agriculture’s potential to deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity. With national-level partnerships in 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the New Vision for Agriculture works to increase investment, sustainability and competitiveness in agriculture. In Vietnam, for example, companies are working with the Ministry of Agriculture, NGOs and local government to increase farmers’ profits and sustainability for key crops.
In our fast-changing world, the cycle of aid dependency that used to frame relations between the rich and poor worlds is neither morally acceptable nor financially feasible. The New Vision for Agriculture, as well as Grow Africa, with a focus on sustainable, equitable and inclusive growth – is a fitting response. By counting on the popular support of its stakeholders, the potential is almost limitless.
Sarita Nayyar is Managing Director, Head of Consumer Industries, World Economic Forum USA
A Ugandan anti-riot police officer walks past a truck of bananas along a street market in Kalerwe suburb of the capital Kampala REUTERS/Edward Echwalu