SME Times News Bureau | 03 Feb, 2014
India has begun
moves to help Africa set up agri-business centres, seed incubators, modern
laboratories and joint projects as part of an enhanced partnership in
agriculture to achieve food and nutrition security, promote entrepreneurship
and create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030.
Proposals for such sectoral cooperation will be bounced this week at the
Asia-Africa Agribusiness Forum meeting in which agriculture ministers of some
15 African countries will take part. The details, official sources said, could
be worked out and decisions taken at the Africa-India Summit this year in
Africa is well-endowed with resources but it lacks much of the expertise to
unlock their commercial potential by restructuring its agriculture industry to
a more profitable form of agribusiness. Many African countries are net food
importers and small holder farmers comprise much of the continent's agriculture
"Small holder farmers must be given access to scientific innovation
designed for the poor, to help them connect to markets, but in a way that builds
their own resilience rather than creating dependency," says William Dar,
director general of the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute
for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
According to a FICCI-PwC theme paper, in Sub-Saharan Africa farming techniques
need improvement in order to offer opportunities to the small holder farmers to
get out their way out of poverty. Also, the agro-based industry needs a major
transformation to generate more job opportunities, revenues and food for the
Under the South-South Initiative, India has been engaged in sustainable
agriculture development of Africa. The Indian Council of Agriculture Research,
International Agriculture Consulting Group and ICRISAT last year formed the
Platform for India-Africa Partnership in Agriculture (PIAPA) to "transform
Africa", providing Indian expertise and experiences to finding solutions
to their food and agriculture development challenges.
ICRISAT will use its Agribusiness and Innovation Platform initiative to help
set up agribusiness incubators for farmers across Africa, along the lines of
its networks of incubators in India.
A recent meeting in Mali capital Bamako mapped out an upscaling agenda for
private, public partnerships based Inclusive, Market Oriented Development
(IMOD) in West and Central Africa. Some success stories of IMOD include
formation of farmers' and womens' groups in Niger to produce quality seeds and
training them on small-scale business skills and marketing.
The World Bank in a report, "Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of
Agribusiness", says that Africa's farmers and agribusinesses could create
a trillion-dollar food market by 2030, a three-fold increase from the current
size of the market which is estimated to be worth $313 billion.
This expected growth highlights the fact that Africa is a new market for
agribusiness firms and related value chain players, says Charles Brewer,
managing director for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa.
"The retail sector is booming in Africa, as is the rapid growth of
populations and the African middle class. As a result of this expansion, there
is a greater availability of and demand for good quality agricultural produce
and processed food products than ever before," says Brewer.
Agribusiness entails the full value chain from farming through secondary
processing, distribution and retailing to the end user-consumer.
Hennie van der Merwe of South Africa-based Agribusiness Development Corporation
(ADC) says Africa is currently experiencing a revival in terms of its focus on
agribusiness, not only to increase food self-sufficiency but also to create
jobs and economic activity, specifically in rural areas.
However, the ability and experience to develop and manage commercial farming
and agribusiness ventures are largely lacking in the continent and that major
technology transfer and capacity building would be necessary, van der Merwe
George Tonderai Marechera of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a
non-profit organisation that facilitates public-private partnerships for the
access and delivery of appropriate agricultural technologies for smallholder
farmers, says that it is hard to develop cassava production in Zambia due to
challenges of machinery for planting, harvesting and processing.
India has proposed to establish five India-Africa food processing business
incubation centres in Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali and Uganda.
India and Africa are implementing science and technology initiatives in
knowledge transfer, common priority research areas and capacity building
development. A Tanzanian delegation last month visited India and evinced keen
interest in e-initiatives like the nationwide SMS portal to increase
productivity and adopt the same in the country.
Also at a meeting at the Research and Information Systems for Developing
Countries last October, participants said African countries could learn from
the way India has boosted the domestic production of seeds.
The National Seed Association of India is partnering Syngenta Foundation India
in the "India Africa Seeds Bridge" project. It is aimed at developing
the seed system in Africa through providing African farmers better seeds and
making market access for Indian seed companies.
Africa and India are running seed trials in Senegal for commercial cultivation.
Once approved, the trial data will be used for automatic approval for release
of millet and sorghum varieties in 15 ECOWAS (Economic Community of West
African States) countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo verde, Cote D'ivoire,
Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal,
Sierra Leone and Togolese.
Diran Makinde, director of the African Biosafety Network of Expertise, says
African regulators can benefit from the Indian experience and data accumulated.
Last October, policy makers from Burkina Faso had come on a study tour of
Indian Bt cotton farms.
There is also talk of setting up seed incubator facilities for private-sector
entrepreneurs in Africa and building Africa's capacity for seed research.
Marechera says that India's model of small seed companies based on lesser
investment has potential in Africa.
Biotechnologists from some African countries like Nigeria are already in touch
with India's agriculture ministry and seed companies to build partnerships.