Over the past years through our agency, we’ve had the incredible opportunity of working with numerous small to medium businesses in an assortment of industries across Africa.
As you can imagine this work has been both rewarding as it has been challenging, particularly within the agriculture sector. To anyone that has been following news on the projected economic growth of Africa, it is no longer secret that the continent has the youngest and fastest growing population in the world. Its population is predicted to double by 2050, which ofcourse has a major implication for the already troubled employment market.
According to The East African, development analysts have said the agricultural sector as well as rural non-farm activities in tourism, agro-industries, food storage and transportation have high potential to create more and better jobs, whilst also building stronger rural communities.
The World Bank has said the African food market is predicted to reach $1 trillion by 2030 from the current $300 billion. Depending on the perspective you choose, YES these will present a lot of challenges for governments; private stakeholders; to farmers themselves, however as an entrepreneur, I view these challenges as opportunities for minds across the continent to collaborate and build solutions together, not forgetting to deliberately get more young people active in and educated about food security.
After having the opportunity to traverse Africa and interact with various communities in the past years, it hit me just how surfaced some of our own efforts within The Business Development Agency (Pty) Ltd had been, learning that malnutrition due to poverty in communities that would normally thrive in agriculture was such a burden & alarming issue as well as an eye-opener for me. I’ve always read that malnutrition affects millions of children, but it only really hit me when I witnessed it in-person.
A message delivered by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina (President of the African Development Bank) during a public lecture at the FAO Head Offices in Rome Italy resonated with me on so many points, he said “Africa has some 58 million kids that are stunted, meaning they are too tiny for their age. Yet, economies post ever rising GDP growth rates. Well, nobody eats GDP. There is no question that stunted children today will lead to stunted economies tomorrow.”
The above statistics to me says, in our efforts to becoming the bread basket of the world, it also key for us to continuously look into solutions in which we could become a bread basket for Africa’s own children, so that whilst feeding the world, Africa’s children can have a chance to meaningfully participate in the development of food security and nutrition.We have heard in almost every gathering where Africa’s food security was a focus that the future of food in the world will depend on what Africa does with the agriculture sector. It is well known by many in the sector that Africa holds 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land left to feed 9 billion by 2050. While this is certainly true, we also have to be conscious of the fact that we may not be making the most of the land already under production, in Africa and other continents. If we are to keep within a safe operating space for the biosphere and its climate, we need to think of how we cultivate land, and how much of it. The Biodiversity crisis is proving a great tragedy and catastrophe – maximizing efficiency of existing cultivated land and changing our production methods so they respect the environment and other species would be a step in the right direction. How we process our production is also an important question to ask. The continent accounts for 75% of the world’s cocoa production, with 65% of this being produced in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, but the continent only receives 2% of the $100 billion annual revenues from chocolates globally. The reason? Africa exports just raw cocoa beans.
You see, it has been proven that producing raw materials is not sufficient if we are to economically grow and create more jobs. The time has never been right for the continent to advance into becoming a global food icon through agro-industrialization and adding value to all of what it produces.
My participation at The 2019 Seeds And Chips Summit in Milan Italy opened my mind and strengthened all the more my convictions on the power of collaboration. I contributed particularly at the ‘FHINK Hub’, a space dedicated to understanding food challenges faced by the African continent, possible solutions to curb hunger from various young and elderly African leaders; ideas on how to better support players within the food system; and ofcourse celebrate those that are making progress and improving the state of the continent’s food system.
That unique experience and participation made me realize that I am not writing this article to impose solutions or claim that I have one big idea that will curb all these challenges linked to food overnight, however I am writing this to invite all Africans within the six (6) regions as well as friends from across the world on other continents for us to come together; FHINK together; and ACT together, because true collaborative brilliance is the key to solving, not just Africa’s food security challenges, but the world’s.
In the words of John Lennon: “the future was yesterday and we are already late”.
So, Let’s Collaborate!
Article by: Cindy Pearl Maphumulo