I am reminded of a local saying that when you go to the stream to fetch water, your bucket will only be filled with the water that is yours. No one can take the water that is meant for you. Life will give you what you deserve, nothing more, and nothing less. But first you must walk to the stream, bend down, and dip your bucket.
I have witnessed many inspiring changes in Africa over the years. Sub- Saharan Africa produces 77 per cent of the world’s platinum metals; 60 per cent of its cobalt (used for batteries and metal alloys); 46 per cent of its natural industrial diamonds; and an abundance of gold, uranium, oil, and gas. Tragically, this immense mineral richness has not benefited the majority.
Achieving the kind of economic growth that leaves no one behind requires deliberate prioritization of the agricultural sector. In fact, agriculture is the surest path to Africa’s prosperity. For instance, it is well established that GDP growth due to agriculture is at least three times more effective in reducing poverty in resource-poor, low-income countries than growth in other sectors. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated to be 11 times more effective.
We are richly endowed with what it takes to achieve greatness – ideal climatic conditions which are, unfortunately, changing in devastating ways; large swathes of arable land; huge deposits of water that can be used for irrigation; and, most importantly, the vast potential of the people themselves especially the ingenuity and vigour of our youth. Our women who do most of our farming deserve a special mention. In 2016, I was honoured as the winner of the Inaugural Africa Food Prize which I dedicated to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families. I am a strong believer that no nation has been able to transform itself without giving women the same rights and opportunities as men.
We laud our leaders’ commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture, and to ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness, in the Malabo Declaration. A lot more still needs to be done. For instance, only eight out of 44 governments in sub-Saharan Africa have kept these promises to invest more in agriculture.
However, where the resolution has been adopted, and the will is there; where the decisions have been taken, and the actions implemented; the results have been both swift and phenomenal.
Ethiopia, for example, has reaped huge benefits for the last two decades from visionary leadership and by honouring its development commitments. The government set up the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to bolster smallholder farmers’ productivity, enhance marketing systems, upgrade the participation of the private sector, increase the volume of irrigated land and curtail the number of households with inadequate food.
Today, agriculture is Ethiopia’s most important sector, accounting for nearly half of the country’s GDP (46.3 per cent), 90 per cent of exports and 85 per cent of the labour force.
Visionary leadership in agriculture, therefore, demonstrably offers rapid returns. Ethiopia and Rwanda, both among the fastest growing African economies, are good examples of countries that have walked to the stream to fill their buckets.
Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze is the 2016 winner of the Africa Food Prize and the immediate Former President of the International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD). He is also a Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).