African agriculture needs to take a business approach - CNBC Africa

African agriculture needs to take a business approach

Western Africa

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Nigeria is the highest importer of rice in the world. PHOTO: Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

This was according to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Grow Africa Summit held in Abuja.

(READ MORE: Grow Africa doubles agriculture investment to US$7.2 billion)

“We realised that to make agriculture sustainable, you go beyond the campaign. You have to create an environment for investors so they can see that there is money for them to make because a businessman doesn’t run a charity organisation. They need to see a return on their investment,” said Jonathan.

(READ MORE: Investment essential to boost agriculture growth)

He further explained that agriculture should no longer be seen as an instrument for rural development as linking the two concepts has driven younger generations away to looking for jobs in more modern fields.

“We don’t want to see agriculture as just rural development [because] that has given us some problems. Young school leavers don’t look at agriculture because they feel that agriculture is what our parents or grandparents do,” he added.

The Nigerian government, Jonathan stated, is therefore trying to attract investors into the country’s agriculture space as he believes they can make significant returns on their investments.

Also, he added that agriculture is one of the major industries that has the potential to create sustainable jobs for the youth.

(WATCH VIDEO: Nigerian agriculture sector to create 3.5 million jobs by 2015)

“We know that in Africa, especially in Nigeria, we have a very young population. You must find ways to create jobs for people and agriculture is one area that you can create sustainable jobs. There are some sectors where jobs are very transient but in agriculture, one thing is that no matter the circumstances of the day, one must eat,” Jonathan explained.

“People may not go to the hospital until they are sick but you must eat everyday so agriculture is key.”

According to Jonathan, Nigeria is currently the highest importer of rice in the world. 

“Our [Nigeria] import bills are quite high and these are areas where we can create an environment which is self-sustainable. By 2015 to 2016, we should be able to produce enough rice for our local consumption,” he said.

“The key thing is not to just produce enough food for our local consumption but also creating jobs along that value chain not just for Nigeria but for our neighbouring countries too.”