As a continent with abundant resources and land, this investment is unjustified and experts agree African countries should stop importing food and profit off the favorable climate and water streams to improve the agriculture sector.
In a one-on-one conversation with IGIHE, Agnes Kalibata, the president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said that food export is an important problem to deal with since Africa can grow its own crops.
Africa imports food from other continents including soybeans, rice, wheat, maize and Irish potatoes that are imported as crisps.
“The food that is imported from abroad can actually be grown locally and that is why we should start thinking about a common African market where we can exchange goods without the need to import from other continents”
She continued saying that the commercial gap that exists in Africa is one of the reasons why African countries keep importing food from other continents.
The Continental Free Trade Area was established in the capital of Niger, Niamey and will start operating on July 1st, 2020. This trade bloc will improve Intra-African trade and definitely solve the problem of food import in Africa.
This African Common Market will contribute to an increase in Intra-African trade from 12% recorded in 2012 to 25% in 2022.
Dr. Kalibata says that much effort and a change in mentalities will be needed to bring the trade bloc to full force and that African countries will have to stop vouching for the easiest alternative and invest more in agriculture.
“All we need to do is focus on agriculture-related activities and give a chance to farm owners who cannot find a market for their crops because we choose to import from abroad.”
She gave as a typical example, the rice that is grown in African countries, that is not measured to its just value and the fact that most people prefer importing rice from Pakistan, Vietnam or Indonesia.
“If we keep thinking that the food imported from other continents has a higher quality than ours, nothing will ever change. We need to join efforts and create measures that will allow the growth of agriculture in Africa including better infrastructures and focus on modern, mechanized agriculture to improve our yield.”
“Africans struggle daily with seeds, detergents, water, transport and roads and that contributes to hiking prices on the market and hence the reason why the first choice is importing from countries like Vietnam. If a farmer from Vietnam yielded 10 tons per hectare and an African farmer yielded 2 to 3 tons on the same area, there is no way the two farmers will sell their crops at the same price”
Dr. Kalibata says that for Africa to save the $ 35 billion spent on food import, there is a need to improve the agricultural yield in Africa, learning crop rotation practice to counter climate change, appropriate detergents to use, improved knowledge in agriculture and investing more money in it.
“Those are the only solutions that will allow us to compete in the global market.”
The problem of food imports in Africa has been discussed by many institutions and it was agreed that African countries should be able to use the available land and resources to provide more crop yield.
The former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo once said he was surprised when he went to a hotel in Guinea and realized all the food that was being served was imported from Europe and that he could not understand why it was the case since all the food there could be grown locally.
He based on that tale saying that the only problem is mentalities given that Africa has all the necessary resources to be self-reliant.
The fact that 70% of Africans are in agriculture promises that if enough effort was put in promoting this sector, Africans would have food self-reliance and it would contribute to the well-being of African citizens particularly by reducing poverty and malnutrition diseases.