Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Africa has all it takes to meet its own food needs and be a significant part of the response to the global challenge of feeding an increasing world population, according to a senior official of the African Union Commission (AUC).
“Optimal use of available productive natural resources and technologies could easily allow Africa to double or even triple food production, and turn the continent from a net food importer into a major global exporter,” said Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, The AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly here Tuesday, she said that while growth of African economies was above 5 percent over the last decade, agricultural growth picked up at a slower pace of 4 percent.
“This falls short of the 5 percent growth rate targeted in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP),” said Tumusiime who underlined the need for African farming to undergo a structural transformation.
She said farming throughout the continent must shift from subsistence-oriented production systems towards market-oriented ones.
The AU session is being held under the theme: ‘2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa’, with the objective of rallying all stakeholders to commit to effective transformation of the continent’s agri-food systems for sustainable food and nutrition security.
African leaders set the theme for Africa's take-off to increase agricultural productivity, production and value addition while improving national and regional agricultural markets, increasing investment in the sector and building resilience in agriculture.
'Unless there is a good marketing infrastructure, agricultural trade in Africa cannot progress,' Tumusiime remarked, calling on the private sector to play its role by raising productivity as well as investment in agricultural value addition and marketing.
'At this summit, the heads of state and government will reflect on where we came from, where we are at present and where we head to in the agricultural sector as a springboard for industrialisation,' she explained.
Tumusiime called for special attention to issues of improving agribusiness and market links, observing that national and sub-regional markets were largely closed to each other but increasingly open to trade with the world outside of the continent.
'As a result, the segmented gaps between domestic production and regional demand are increasingly filled by imports of non-African origin, even in cases where tradable surpluses exist in the region.
'This landscape does not provide adequate incentives for meaningful private sector investment and full realisation of the production and and intra-regional trade potential of African agriculture,' she added.