The Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Kandeh K. Yumkella, is of the view that agribusiness and agro-industries and economic diversification were key factors that would put Africa on the road to prosperity.
Speaking at the recently-held Africa Caucus Meeting in DR Congo, Mr Yumkella said “Agriculture is the most important sector of the African economy and will have to be its driving engine out of poverty. It accounts for 65% of the continent’s employment and 75% of its domestic trade. Africa is also urbanizing at a fast rate. In order to turn bright prospects into employment opportunities for its young people, Africa needs to embrace economic diversification.”
The meeting brought together Africa’s finance ministers, central bank governors, and representatives of international development agencies and financial institutions.
Yumkella argues that it was necessary to boost agricultural productivity in Africa in order to achieve sustainable industrial and agribusiness development as a means of wealth and job creation.
“The transformation of agricultural raw materials into industrial products depends increasingly on the capacity of African entrepreneurs to participate and compete in global, regional and local value chains. Accordingly, African agribusiness value chains will have to adapt to changing market conditions, continuously improve efficiency and strive to meet consumer requirements in a competitive global trade system,” said Yumkella.
He added that “high performance agribusiness value chains need to be based on processes that guarantee the highest product quality in a challenging global marketplace. Africa needs new learning and innovation systems involving regional cooperation, new types of partnerships between farmers, sellers, investors and researchers, and the right incentives and public actions that crowd-in rather than crowd-out private investment.”
Mr Yumkella therefore urged African countries to strategically invest in transport infrastructure, access to energy and water, ICTs and management efficiency in order for agribusiness to thrive.
“Without decisive action towards economic diversification, improvements in agricultural productivity and increased resources, water and energy efficiency, the creation of ‘decent’ employment opportunities to address the fast growing population and urbanization trends will not be possible,” said Yumkella.
He indicated that a green industrial policy can put Africa on a virtuous growth path and that governments need to introduce mechanisms comprised of appropriate incentives, disincentives and regulations to attract investments in the desired manufacturing areas and in much needed economic and physical infrastructure.
By Ekow Quandzie