There is a worrisome and continued rise in the importation of food and agricultural products in Africa for the past three decades. The continent’s growing human population and demands to feed this population is a potential to explore in the agricultural sector in Africa and turn it into huge fortunes.
Thus, the role of agriculture to diversify Africa’s economies and create job, reduce poverty and enhance standard of living in rural areas cannot be over-emphasized.
Statistics show that Africa’s annual food import has reached $35 billion and it’s estimated to rise to $110 billion by 2025. According to experts, this importation trend will weaken African economies, decimates its agriculture and lead to jobs export from the continent.
Experts in the field of agriculture have frowned at this long-standing puzzle and lamented why Africa remains a net importer of food and agricultural products despite its vast potentials and the need to eliminate the obstacles on the path to achieve agribusiness in African countries.
“Data and evidence from the literature on Agribusiness highlights that technical, infrastructural and institutional constraints share the blame. Likewise, distortions arising from both internal and external economic and agricultural policies especially the protection and subsidies from developed countries and taxation on food production within Africa have affected food productivity, production and trade in Africa,” said David Hallam, Director of Trade and Markets Division at United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The component affected in this importation trends are all agribusiness such as agricultural inputs, agricultural production, agricultural processing-manufacturing or agro-processing and agricultural marketing-distribution sector.
Findings identified that population growth coupled with low and stagnating productivity in food and agricultural production, on the one hand, policy distortions and weak institutional support, on the other hand, are the main reasons for the increased Africa dependency on food importation.
Some experts attributed the food and agricultural products importation deficit in Africa to policy regulations, infrastructural deficits and lack of effective transportation system within the continent.
The rising demand for food imports in Africa is also linked to the continent’s population size, structure and growth per capital food consumption and dietary patterns while the supply causes of rising food import includes Low yields and productivity, limited access to essential inputs, equipment’s and land degradation. Others are low fertilizer uses and difficulty of control of pests and diseases, water constraint and low mechanization.
Some other factors are the lack of investment in food production, institutional deficiencies, insecurity, and conflicts, economic and agricultural policies in Africa agricultural and food trade, African growth characteristics, divergence and slow capital accumulation.
Generally, experts are of the belief that long term sustainable solutions to these problems remain a bedrock to ensuring smooth agribusiness within African countries and thereby overcome food and agricultural product importation from outside Africa in the future.
In ensuring this, African Agricultural expert are urged to review and analyze how existing trading arrangements and rules can be further exploited to help improve food trade within Africa.
To make Africa a competitive net food exporter, African leaders should devote resources to areas of research that will further contribute to defining how Africa’s food trade can yield more benefits to its young, and growing population. Some of these areas should focus on continued implementation of macroeconomic reforms in the evolving context of global competition for inputs and for food products.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) assessing the impacts of the past and on-going reforms and evolution structural adjustment, poverty reduction, agricultural investment policies, etc. will help to shape the accompanying measures of future reforms to ensure viable food markets. Especially given Africa’s vast and untapped agricultural potential both in terms of resources and market opportunities.
Expert Tips on New Transportation Model To Achieve Effective Agribusiness in the ECOWAS Sub-Region.
Effective Agribusiness the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been hampered by a number of reasons ranging from infrastructural gap to tariff barriers, logistics and transportation challenges.
Although the sub-regional commission has since 1993 revised its Trade Liberalization Scheme to address some of these challenges but the persistence of these barriers has made experts suggest new initiatives, especially in the transportation sector, to combat those trade deficits
“Because of the various problems earlier identified with road transport in the ECOWAS region, it is becoming necessary to consider other alternative means of transporting food across Member States;” said Prof. Jonathan Aremu of International Economic Relations, Covenant University and Consultant, ECOWAS Common Investment Market.
According to him, the Commission should adopt texts regulating the mode of transport of priority products, including their packaging, especially cereals as well as introducing both Intermodal and multimodal transport system across West Africa which will bridge the maritime and inland waterways infrastructural gap among Member States including Cameroon and promote and enhance trade connectivity as well as ECOWAS regional and global trade competitiveness.
“The Intermodal transportation model focused on multiple mode of transportation like air, water, land via Aircraft, ship, rails and trucks in moving a traffic. The system is used for the transportation of freight to destination via multiple modes like ships, aircrafts, rails, trucks etc. without removing the cargo from the container;” Aremu said.
Multimodal transport on the other hands involves the transportation of goods under a single contract but performed with at least two different modes of transport.
Aremu stated that the carrier known as the Multimodal Transportuitimodal Transportation Operator-MTO is liable (in a legal sense) for the entire carriage, even though it is performed by several different modes of transport (by rail, sea and road). For example, the carrier does not have to possess all the means of transport, and in practice usually does not; the carriage is often performed by sub-carriers.
It is believed that when these new transport initiatives are designed and complemented with a Regional Cabotage Protocol and Sea-link could promote effective transportation of food and agricultural products among member states and limit the importation of food from outside Africa.