Invest in Africa’s agriculture, World Bank advises
Posted Wednesday, March 6 2013 at 02:00
Africa holds almost 50 per cent of the world’s uncultivated land.
The World Bank has warned African countries against losing track on agriculture in favour of the recently discovered oil and gas.
World Bank economists say this is a direct reflection of low intra-regional trade among African countries because of low production and barriers to trade.
Africa is largely a net importer of food with the oil and gas producing countries being the worst hit by the high food import bill. For instance, Africa has become a major consumer and importer of rice, importing half of it at about $3.5 billion annually.
World Bank statistics indicate that the food import bill for all African countries is $25 billion annually. Out of that total, only $1 billion of food imports comes from within Africa while the rest is imported.
Addressing a televised news conference in Washington on Monday, the World Bank vice president for Africa, Mr Makhtar Diop, said: “... the only way African countries can close large trade account deficit is through increased agricultural productivity for consumption and exports,” Mr Makhtar added.
Of the 77 oil wells that have been drilled by oil exploring companies in Uganda, 70 wells have been successful. Kenya has also discovered oil while Tanzania has discovered huge gas deposits. Valued at $313 billion a year, Africa’s food systems could triple if governments and business leaders re-think their policies and support agriculture which accounts for nearly 50 per cent of Africa’s economic activity.