Africa Is Open for Business

Diplomats from Africa address ag and trade issues at World Food Prize discussion.

Six African ambassadors to the United States traveled to Des Moines, Iowa and participated in the World Food Prize ceremonies the week of October 16 -21, honoring Dr. Norman Borlaug and the three new 2006 World Food Prize Laureates. The African diplomats urged support for public-private sector partnerships in African agriculture.

Ambassadors making the trip were H.E. Peter Ogego of Kenya; H.E. Abdoulaye Diop of Mali: H.E. Armando Panguene of Mozambique; H.E. Zac Nsenga of Rwanda; H.E. Amadou Ba of Senegal and H.E. Andrew Daraja of Tanzania.

The three new World Food Prize laureates honored were former Brazilian Minister of Agriculture H.E. Alysson Paolinelli, former technical director of Brazil's Cerrado Research Center Mr. Edson Lobato, and Dr. A. Colin McClung of IRI Research Institute. The three Laureates were recognized for their vital roles in transforming Brazil's Cerrado — a vast region of once infertile tropical high plains--into highly productive cropland.

Can we replicate Green Revolution?

The World Food Prize symposium's theme this year was "The Green Revolution Redux: Can We Replicate the Single Greatest Period of Food Production in Human History?" The speakers, presentations and discussions focused on the role of science and technology in promoting agricultural productivity and growth in food production around the world.

This is very important for Africa, the one region in the world where hunger and malnutrition are projected to increase, with malnutrition inhibiting the growth of 42 million children. Currently, one third of Africa's more than 700 million people are undernourished and one half live on less that $1 a day. With three-quarters of Africans living in rural areas and depending on agriculture for their livelihood, the most strategic means of improving their family income and easing malnutrition, hunger and poverty is through sustained agricultural growth and rural-based economic development.

Africa wants to add value to products

Asia's Green Revolution was achieved through significant investments in science and technology, human and institutional capacity building, infrastructure, and business enterprise and market development. The ambassadors said similar urgent efforts are needed in Africa to enable communities to produce sufficient, good quality value-added agricultural products for their families and for both the local and external markets.

The environment is just right for these investments, the ambassadors say. Prudent government efforts have significantly improved Africa's political and economic landscape and resulted in a better business climate, new investment opportunities and greater economic growth.

Convinced of the importance of agriculture in stimulating further economic growth, African leaders have committed to increase their support for agriculture and rural sectors and, under the Africa Union/New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiatives, have outlined strategic public-private investments to spur future agricultural and economic growth.

Seeking private sector ag development

In order to achieve gains from these investments, the African diplomats urged the United States and other donors of food to increase their support and collaboration in strengthening African institutions of higher learning and research.

This will help Africa to enhance participation of the private sector in agricultural development; better organizing small farmers so they can reap benefits from economies of scale and better access input and product markets. They want the private sectors to invest in infrastructure such as roads, telecommunication, water and energy - to lower the cost of doing business in Africa.

"Africa is now open for business," said one of the ambassadors, "and there are many agricultural success stories that need scaling up."

Although the leadership for this effort must be African-driven and guided by local priorities, the international community should facilitate the effort, the diplomats say. It should be done in a coordinated and coherent manner, with increased funding and support for Africa's agriculture and rural sectors to help reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition, they said. They urge that this effort begin to take place now, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

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