Africa needs action to accelerate economic transformation and development

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The United Nations’ FAO said the focus should be on smallholder farmers and family farming.

“Despite important economic progress and agricultural successes, Africa remains the world’s most food insecure continent, with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity, low rural incomes, and high rates of malnutrition,” FAO said in statement at the opening of a regional conference for Africa in Tunis, Tunisia.

FAO called on African ministers of agriculture for action in priority areas to accelerate increased investment and broad-based transformation in support of smallholder farmers, including rural youth and women.

Africa has recorded continuous economic growth since 1999, accompanied by improved governance and human development indicators. Currently, seven out of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world are situated in Africa, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will be 6.1 percent in 2014.

Africa’s annual total GDP grew on average by 4.8 percent in 2000-2010, up from 2.1 percent in the previous decade, and the agricultural sector’s growth rates in the same time period were 3.2 percent and 3.0 percent respectively.

The continent has achieved a series of agricultural successes in major areas, including the intensification of staple food production, improved varieties of banana in eastern and central Africa, high-yielding varieties of maize in east and southern Africa, and productivity gains in cotton production in Burkina Faso and Mali and in tea and floriculture in East Africa.

“The question is how African leaders can build on this progress by providing stable agriculture and fiscal policies that encourage investment, as committed 10 years ago in the Maputo Declaration, and strengthen governance and accountability mechanisms that contribute to more systemic implementation of policies and programmes,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa in a statement.

“These actions are critical to trigger a transformation in the capacity of countries to deliver sustained and broad-based agricultural growth and development.”

The Conference will advocate for providing the enabling environment to end hunger in the continent by 2025. It will primarily focus on sustainably increasing the potential of agriculture, fisheries, livestock and forestry as a source of employment and income for African youth, women and men who engage in these sectors for food and nutrition security as well as agri-business ventures aimed at increasing family incomes.