Chairman’s Statement

Chairman’s Statement

In Africa, when conditions are right, change can happen fast.

Agriculture forms a significant portion of the economies of all African countries. As a sector it can contribute towards major continental priorities, such as eradicating poverty and hunger, boosting intra-Africa trade and investments, rapid industrialization and economic diversification, sustainable resource and environmental management, and creating jobs, human security and shared prosperity.

Mr. Strive Masiyiwa - Chairman of the Board

It’s a question of simple math. Roughly two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans work in agriculture. Many countries have relied on the service, technology, or industry sectors to stimulate growth, but in doing so they are relying on 20% of their population— or less—for 100% of their growth. The most prosperous African future is one fueled by the energy and resources of all Africans.

African agriculture can become a productive, self-sustaining economy that not only captures the $1 trillion African food market but also exports food to other regions of the world. The impact will be not just economic growth, but economic growth that reduces poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

When I founded a telecommunications company in the mid 1990s, nearly three in four Africans had never heard a telephone ring. Now, more than three in four have a mobile phone. In Africa, when conditions are right, change can happen fast.

Everything I have seen over the past 10 years as a member, and then as chair of AGRA’s board, proves to me that the conditions are right and African agriculture is poised for a massive breakthrough.

Africa has come a long way since 2003 when the continent’s leaders birthed the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). This shared commitment to agriculture is now spreading across the continent. The 2014 Malabo Declaration and its associated CAADP Implementation Strategy & Roadmap has generated consensus around priorities. Agriculture is one of the few African sectors with a common agenda, results framework, and accountability mechanism for all countries.

Many African leaders are now faced with the opportunity to situate agriculture within the continent’s economic transformation and position it right at the front and center of economic development. As the vision gets clearer and powerful partners line up behind it, the multiplier effect from agriculture to other sectors is increasing, and governments are responding by increasing both the quantity and quality of their spending on agriculture.

In 2016, AGRA commemorated 10 years. Over that period, we now know African agriculture could be more productive and African smallholders more prosperous. These two changes could drive historic progress against hunger and poverty across the continent. 

The 2016 Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) provided a glimpse of a new awakening, a surge, a desire to get there faster than ever before. It is noteworthy that the 2016 Africa Agriculture Status Report, launched at the Forum, found that many African economies are undergoing dramatic agricultural transformation—marked by higher agricultural productivity and a shift in the workforce from farming to off-farm sectors—as a result, poverty rates are also falling.

For a long time, we had to make the case for agriculture. Now, the case has been made. In 2016, we had a moment to come together, advance policies and secure the investments to ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families including women and youth—and realize the vision and goals contained in the National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans (NAFSIPs) and in alignment with New Vision of CAADP’s Malabo Declaration; the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

With the rallying call to “Seize the Moment”, governments, development partners, the private sector and the AGRF delegates made inroads towards the necessary financial and policy interventions to raise the profile of African agriculture as an engine of inclusive growth and sustainable economic progress. The level of commitments made was unprecedented not only in Africa but globally as well.

These glimpses of success offer an inspiring new vision of a future Africa in which farming as a struggle to survive gives way to farming as a business that thrives. The process by which an agri-food system transforms over time from being subsistence-oriented and farm-centered into one that is more commercialized, productive, and off-farm centered is taking place in Africa.

The challenge Africa faces right now is less a lack of understanding of ‘what’ needs to be done - over the decade of AGRA’s existence numerous studies have been done and investments made to create potential solutions, technologies and models that now exist in a number of places. The challenge is rather - ‘how’ to successfully unlock the potential for a sustainable transformation, and bring the most relevant solutions to scale.

AGRA and its complement of partners now has the knowledge and the tools to catalyze this necessary change. By delivering a comprehensive package of solutions that are sensitive to the realities of smallholders’ lives—taking account of the fact, for example, that women do the majority of agricultural labor on the continent—AGRA is helping a targeted set of farmers usher in the rapid advances that have so far eluded African agriculture.

What we have learned together over the last 10 years is that production is one piece of the puzzle. The struggles for an African agricultural transformation are real, but the opportunity to progressively move the needle towards a tipping point are looming and in sight. Farmers across Africa need better access to finance, markets, and an enabling policy environment that affords them the social protections many of us across the world take for granted.

Much more remains to be done to truly drive the agricultural transformation needed for Africa’s development, and to ensure a better life for its entire population as laid out in the Malabo Declaration and in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As the region faces increasing challenges from climate change, rapidly growing urban populations, and an urgent need for jobs, agriculture offers solutions, providing a clear path to food and nutritional security and employment opportunities for all Africans.

We have seen through collective efforts across the agriculture sector that there are innovations, institutions, programs, and policies that work. We now need to pull together the best among these and build on them with the speed and scale required to secure Africa’s rise.


Mr.Strive Masiyiwa - Chairman of the Board