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Africa should see the gold in its dirt, says banker

Commodities
Cape Town - The African Development Bank (AfDB) on Friday said its investment in the agriculture sector on the continent would rise by 400 percent to $24 billion (R308.8 billion) over the next decade as it looks to the industry to create more jobs in the future.

AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina said more investments should be directed to the agricultural sector to unlock its full potential.

‘’With 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated land, Africa will determine the future of food for the world. There is gold in the dirt, if only we will see it. In Africa, for far too long, farmers have been abandoned.

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Xinhua/Zhu Xudong

"In India’s Green Revolution, farmers were given bold support - in Africa, we must do the same,” Adesina said.

Africa produces only 10 percent of the global food output despite having more than 60 percent of the arable land in the world.

It also emerged at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban this month that Africa spent $35 billion a year importing food, excluding fish, and that by 2025, this figure would reach $110 billion as the population was expected to continue increasing. The sector is also massively important to the South African economy.

Input

Recent statistics released by Stats SA showed that agriculture supplied goods worth R267 billion.

About R5 billion of this was used as inputs for other agricultural production. Most agricultural supplies were used by the manufacturing sector to produce goods we find in stores.

The sector was surpassed in 2014 by the information and communication technology (ICT) industry for its contribution to the gross domestic product.

Stats SA said ICT’s contribution was slightly higher at 2.7 percent, larger than agriculture’s 2.4 percent, while the sector had slipped in ranking to fall from seventh to 10th place, contributing 2 percent to the GDP last year.

Read also: African Development Bank warns on rising debt

Adesina said the private sector, women and young people had an important role to play in transforming agriculture to create wealth on the continent. He urged more youth to engage in agriculture.

New narrative

“I am convinced that we must change the narrative about African agriculture, which will be a $1 trillion business by 2030. And the entertainment world agrees with me. One of the results of this meeting is that we have collectively seen the need to make dramas - not just documentaries - about agriculture, so as to engage a younger audience,” Adesina pointed out.

The World Bank estimates that the agricultural industry, which is currently valued at about $313 billion, would be worth $1 trillion by 2030.

The bank said the sector would provide jobs for 70 percent of the poorest people on the continent. But it cautioned that governments, the private sector and farmers would need to work in unison to achieve the projected growth.

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