IITA Chief Pushes for Private Sector Full Involvement in African Agriculture

Kenton Dashiell

Deputy Director-General of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Kenton Dashiell, says when the private sector is fully engaged in African agriculture, smallholder farmers will have easy access to technologies to enhance production and profit.

In his opening remarks at a webinar organised to connect partners and deliberate on ways to increase private sector engagement in African agriculture, Dashiell highlighted private sector’s importance and role in the entire agriculture value chain.

He notes that he encouraged participants to envision a productive agricultural environment that is driven and powered by the private sector.

The webinar, a collaborative activity of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) with Grow Africa, IITA, and Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), was moderated by IITA Director for Country and Regional Engagement and Senior Programme Engagement Specialist for TAAT, Kwesi Atta-Krah.

The mandate of AUDA-NEPAD has the mandate of coordinating and executing priority regional and continental projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realisation of Agenda 2063; and strengthening capacity of African Union member states and regional bodies, advancing knowledge-based advisory support, undertaking the full range of resource mobilisation and serve as the continent’s technical interface with all Africa’s development stakeholders and development partners.

The Agency implements its mandate through six broad thematic areas, namely: Economic integrationIndustrialisation;Environmental SustainabilityTechnology, Innovation and DigitisationKnowledge Management; and Human Capital and Institutions Development.

The new AUDA-NEPAD mandate gives the organisation a wider role in terms of providing knowledge-based advisory support to AU Member States in the pursuit of their national development priorities. The core functions of the Agency are to:

Incubate innovative programmes in various fields, including technology, research and development, knowledge management, and data analytics;

Provide technical and implementation support to RECs and Member States in the development and execution of priority projects and programmes;

Assist member states and RECs to strengthen capacity in key areas such as food and nutrition, energy, water, infrastructure, information and communication technology and digital economy, natural resource governance, climate change and institutional and human capital development and innovation;

Provide advisory support in the setting up and application of norms and standards in thematic priorities of the AU to accelerate regional integration;

Provide technical backstopping to the AU in implementing policy recommendations at the continental, regional and national levels;

Monitor and assess Africa’s development trends and progress with the view to achieve key continental and global goals for the purpose of technical reporting;

Undertake, apply and disseminate research on policy development support for Member States;

Coordinate, facilitate and promote cooperation with Africa’s strategic partners and stakeholders for effective resource mobilisation;

Coordinate and facilitate partnership with stakeholders and African academia;

Foster the cooperation in Africa with the private sector; and

Coordinate between AU Specialised Agencies, Organs and other institutions to create an enabling and supportive environment for the achievement of the goals and priorities of Agenda 2063.

Grow Africa facilitates collaboration between governments, international and domestic agriculture companies, and smallholder farmers in order to lower the risk and cost of investing in agriculture, and improve the speed of return to all stakeholders.

On its part, Grow Africa helps establish value chain specific multi-stakeholder partnerships at the national level and engages locally through these companies.  The broader Grow Africa network includes farmer, civil society, development, and research organisations.

Grow Africa’s work is fully anchored within the national and continental policy architecture of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which to improve food and nutrition security, and increase incomes in Africa’s largely farming-based economies.

CAADP, which is a NEPAD Agency programme, aims to achieve this by raising agricultural productivity and increasing public and private investment in agriculture.

The TAAT programme, however, aims to help the continent fulfil its enormous potential in the sector by employing high-impact technologies to boost output.

Africa is home to 60% of the world’s arable land, yet we remain importers of food and unable to reap the benefits of our labour.

Millions of our people are productive in the sector yet we remain the most food insecure in the world. About 220 million Africans suffer from chronic undernourishment – about a fifth of the continent’s population and a quarter of the global total experiencing this burden.

In the mean time, Atta Krah, a Ghana national, is Director, Advocacy and Country Alignment, in the Office of the Director-General. He assumed this position in January 2017.

Prior to this, from 2013 to December 2016, he was Executive Director of Humidtropics – the CGIAR research program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, that was led by IITA.

Between June 2005 and January 2013, Dr. Atta-Krah was Deputy Director-General of Bioversity International, based in Rome Italy.

Earlier, he had worked with International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI); International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) – now ILRI: and with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA.

He holds a BSc. in Crop Science from the University of Ghana, Legon (1977), and PhD in Natural Resources Management/Agroforestry from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. His professional interests and expertise span natural resources management, integrated systems research and general management and leadership.

He has experience in multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder research and development processes, for enhanced efficiencies and synergies. His key professional passion currently is in promoting the importance of alignment of research and delivery operations to strategic goals of countries, for accelerated impact. It is in this context that the seminar is being given.

Ibrahim Gourouza-Magaji, Chief Operations Officer, Grow Africa (AUDA-NEPAD) expressed that since June 2017, African Institutions, under the leadership of the African Union Commission (AUC) and NEPAD, have adopted a framework which facilitates private sector investment in agriculture in Africa called the Country Agribusiness Partnership Framework (CAP-F).

Gourouza- Magaji explained that CAP-F conducts policy changes, mobilizes private sector investors and FDI investment, sets up coordination mechanisms in countries, and provides a mutual accountability framework. “The model has been tested, and it has been able to mobilize half a million dollars investment in various value chains in six African countries”, he said.

“Technology is the pivot”, Wanbo Yandjeu, NEPAD Rural Development Specialist, said. He explained that digital technology is changing farming in Africa by providing an increasing number of precision services. He explained that new breeds of crops and animals being released by research help manage climate stresses better while increasing yields.

“With reduced economic activities, disruption in global supply chains, and increases in the price of commodities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expedient for the private sector to be brought on board massively to effect a significant change”, said Dr Martin Fregene, Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industries, African Development Bank (AfDB).

Fregene explained that 80% of all food consumed in Africa passes through small and medium enterprises. Since the private sector invests up to $16 billion in agriculture already, it is important to harness more input from it.

Putting the private sector at the center of transformation to ensure sustainability, building stronger linkages between research institutions and SMEs to ensure the affordability and availability of food on the African continent is of high importance and should be developed into a policy.



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