The President of the Alliance for A Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Dr.Agnes Kalibata has asked governments across the African continent to increase investments in priority infrastructure that favor the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises.
Such infrastructure includes roads, ports, extending electricity to rural areas and making internet available and affordable, good marketing, systems, proper storage among others.
Kalibata said investments in for example good road networks are already yielding results in countries like Ethiopia where government made deliberate efforts and invested in roads.
This has helped processors of Teff a type of grain consumed in Ethiopia as njera, to easily source it from farmers in rural areas to milling centers in urban areas.
She adds that small investment has enabled consumers to easily access ready-made njera, an increase in nearly 50% of teff mills with more retail outlets.
This growth has also enabled farmers, wholesales, truckers, retail shops and mills to increase. In addition, the number of trucks transporting Teff has increased by 70 to 80%, an example which she said should be emulated by all member states.
Kalibata made the call on Tuesday at the launch of the 2019 Africa Agricultural Status Report (AASR) from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) at the ongoing African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Accra Ghana.
The AGRF is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, pulling together stakeholders in the agricultural sector to discuss and commit to programs, investments, and policies to achieve an inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation across the continent.
This year’s AGRF is running under the theme “Grow Digital: Leveraging Digital Transformation to Drive Sustainable Food Systems in Africa.
Established in 2006, AGRA is an African-led, Africa-based and farmer-centered institution working to put smallholder farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy by transforming farming into a business that thrives.
The report highlights that millions of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) source their raw materials directly from smallholder farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa.
These SMEs, often women-led, include food processors, wholesalers, and retailers. SMEs provide a range of services, from transport and logistics to the sale of inputs such as fertilizer and seed to farmers.
Kalibata noted that although the growth of SMEs is vital in the agrifood supply chains, they are still faced with large barriers.
Such barriers include high costs for equipment and energy, inadequate infrastructure, especially of roads, wholesale markets and mobile phone connectivity, financial and credit restraints, making it difficult for SMEs to compete with imported goods that cost less to produce, she noted.
“We live in a global market. Our job today is to ensure that these SMEs are taken care of to provide the right kind of support to family farms; and to be competitive so that they can survive and thrive in an increasingly interconnected and global market because their success will determine the future of agriculture and food security in Africa.” Kalibata said.
According to Kalibata, infrastructure is one of the policy recommendations in the report that governments and donors should work on and create conditions that make it easy for businesses in Agriculture to develop and grow.