The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that African rice consumption is projected to reach 34.9 million tonnes of milled rice by 2025. However, current African rice production cannot satisfy the consumer demand in quantity and quality, with the gap filled by imports, predominantly of Asian origin, to approximately USD 5.5 billion annually.

Today, rice is an integral meal for several middle to high income households. It is a major dietary energy source for West Africa and the second most important source of calories in Africa. 

In the 9-year span, amongst staple crops, rice consumption showed a significant increase of approximately 37%, comparatively higher than increases from other crops such as maize (20%), sorghum (21%) and cassava (32%). 

The Statista’s (2021) report on Africa’s rice importation indicates a 16.6 million metric tons of rice imported in 2021. AGRA’s 2021 report shows also shows that out of the 34 million tons of milled rice consumed annually in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), only 35% is produced locally. The remaining 65% of rice need is met through importing foreign rice from either USA, India, Thailand or Vietnam, with an import bill of US$ 35 billion annually. 

Africa has the potential to achieve internal food security and play a greater role in feeding the world. More productive land could create a food and agribusiness economy turn Africa from a net importer of food into a net exporter. 

How can this be achieved? 

The rice sector represents a pathway out of poverty in Africa, as rice availability and prices have become major determinants of the welfare of the poorest sections of African consumers. 

This means that we need to strengthen the local rice value chains to achieve better production, nutrition, a better environment, and a better life in the target countries and this is where public–private partnerships (PPP) come in play. 

AGRA, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and Japan International Coalition Agency (JICA) saw the need to future proof the rice demand and this led to the Coalition of Africa Rice Development (CARD). CARD is a consultative Group comprising bilateral and multilateral donors as well as African and International Institutions that was established in 2008, with the aim of developing Africa’s rice sector and to promote a green revolution for Africa.   

Between 2008 and 2018, CARD focused on development and implementation of its National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) and provision of a capacity development program for all value chain actors.

This led to: 

  1. CARD Member Countries formulated 218 projects from their rice strategies amounting to 9 billion USD. 
  2. CARD’s 28 million metric tons target was surpassed and by 2017, the yield was 30.1 million. 

The second phase began in 2019 and aims to increase rice production from 28M to 56M tonnes by 2030.  This phase also welcomed nine new member countries: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Congo Republic, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Niger and Sudan, and a new partner, WFP.

To achieve this, CARD’s approach is to: 

  • adopt the “RICE” approach- Resilience, Industrialization, competitiveness, and Empowerment.  
  • contribute to SDG 2: Zero hunger, SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth and SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

CARD supports the member countries for preparing their National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS), through organizing a series of workshops called Working Week (WW), on average of three times in a year. 

To achieve impact, it is important to move quickly towards mobilizing the necessary support for implementation. Whilst we operate as an institution, there is an urgent need to develop mechanisms to increase the flow of financial resources for agricultural mechanization investments from commercial banks and other financial institutions, as emerging small- and medium-scale commercial farmers and entrepreneurs require access to loans. 

Another essential area is strengthening of the national, subregional, and regional institutional infrastructure supporting the development of agricultural mechanization. This must include research and innovation; standards and testing; manufacture and trade in agricultural machinery and implements; technology transfer and extension; and capacity building in all fields across the continent.