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Africa's elite believe agriculture will produce the next generation of billionaires

Asked where the next crop of African billionaires will come from, the president of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, without batting an eyelid, declared that they will be farmers. 

He is not the only person in his class endorsing agriculture as the next frontier. Technology success Strive Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean businessman and entrepreneur, has indicated more than once that if he was to start over, he would go into farming.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, too, is now venturing into farming, just recently investing $4.6bn in Nigerian agriculture. Dangote plans to invest $3.8bn in sugar and rice and $800m in milk production in the next three years. Already greatly involved in agriculture, Dangote, through his Dangote Group conglomerate, is out to increase sugar output by 50 percent (from 100,000 tonnes), rice yield by one million tons, and to start producing 500 million litres of milk a year by 2020.

Yet, for years, and even with front-seat access to data and consultant-advice from real billionaires, the majority of African governments have done little to reposition their economies as agricultural powerhouses. But things may now be set to change. 

In 2014, African heads of state met in Equatorial Guinea and vowed to work together to open up the potential of the region’s agricultural industry. This agreement was put into a document, now popularly known as the Malabo Declaration, which stipulated the specific commitments with clear indicators for tracking and measuring agricultural practice that needed attention. 

Further, the Malabo Declaration agreed that a new monitoring system would be set up to ensure that the heads of state, and their respective authorities, maintained accountability to peers, and to their citizenry in delivering this agricultural transformation. 

For this purpose, the heads of state agreed to review their achievements every two years, known as the biennial review. The first such review is now underway, with a final report set for presentation at the next African Heads of State Summit. In the same way, the heads of state agreed that there was an urgent need to create a scorecard that would show countries how they are faring on the different goals of the Malabo Declaration. 

The scorecard, the first ever pan-African cooperation of its kind, is now under development and will be ready for the January 2018 African Union Summit of heads of state. Once presented, it will provide a new and powerful tool for all stakeholders in identifying the specific areas of agricultural transformation that need attention.

Publication date: 9/19/2017


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