Africa must use agriculture as anti-poverty tool

Alberto Leny

Leadership has proved to be the bane of development in Africa. This reality is reflected in the dehumanising poverty levels and violation of human rights.

Despite countless resolutions at the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), African nations still suffer from the consequences of ineffective leadership in the two spheres fundamental concerns.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim at ending extreme poverty by 2030. Africa’s problem has been the failure by leadership to leverage the solutions provided by experts to tackle the two developmental challenges.

The continent has produced leading scientists and economists with globally-recognised research findings. Kenya, for example, is home to top international research centres including the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Institute for Livestock Research and Development (ILRAD) and International Centre for Insect Ecology and Physiology (icipe).

Vital findings from distinguished researchers have been available to planners, policy-makers and leaders but sadly, these are gathering dust in shelves or tucked away in drawers. If only our leaders could manage findings appropriately and in a timely manner, we would be well on the way to eradicating poverty.

Leadership is the key to unlocking the development impasse, and agriculture is the surest way to remove the shackles of poverty that clamp the people in want and misery. African governments must provide inclusive opportunities for economic growth. It’s no wonder this subject took centre stage last week during the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. AGRF, the premier agriculture body in Africa, brings together African heads of state, ministers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions and NGOs.

The forum acknowledged that evidence-based leadership would guide the continent going forward as far as agriculture is concerned. Around 65 per cent of the world’s uncultivated land is in Africa, providing the continent with a unique opportunity to feed her people and the world. This is where leadership comes in.

For this unmatched potential to be unleashed, governments and the private sector must demonstrate political will, financing and policies into hard investments and actions. Leadership must ensure farmers and agribusiness have access to the funding they need.

Deputy President William Ruto informed the forum agriculture is key to Kenya’s economy.  With this acknowledgement, the government needs to rapidly address shortcomings in the sector.

As host, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda told the forum: “We cannot blame anybody else for these shortcomings. We need to change this by working together towards better investments in agriculture.”

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