Economic growth in Africa is forecast to continue at a robust rate, slightly above the recent trend of 5 per cent a year.
Economic growth in Africa is forecast to continue at a robust rate, slightly above the recent trend of 5 per cent a year. And, Africa is urbanizing fast, with an average of close to 40 per cent of the population living in cities.
As such, it may seem paradoxical to suggest that agriculture should be Africa’s number one priority, especially when it comes to employment. But there are very good reasons for this.
Over 60 per cent of Africa’s economically active population works in and lives from agriculture; over one third of total value-added comes from agriculture; and, surprisingly, Africa imports close to US$50 billion worth of food every year, mostly to feed its rapidly expanding urban population (see chart). This is equivalent to what Africa receives in official development aid, and over five times more than the amount invested in future economic growth by the African Development Bank.
The reality is that agriculture in Africa has been neglected by governments, international development lenders and policy advisers alike. This carries a high cost: Per capita food production has barely grown over the last 50 years, at a pace of 0.06 per cent a year. With the population rising at 2.6 per cent a year, food imports have increased at an annual rate of 3.4 per cent since 1980, with cereals accounting for the largest share. Africa receives close to half of the world’s total cereal food aid.