Coffee beans

Concrete actions for a real transformation of Africa’s agriculture

Oslo, May 21, 2013
Yara attended the 2013 Grow Africa Investment Forum, from 8-9 May, in Cape Town, South Africa, where a high-level audience was gathered to discuss opportunities, challenges and solutions to advance sustainable agricultural transformation in African agriculture.
Yara agronomist in a cocoa farm

The event, gathering 300 leaders from politics, business and civil society, was promoted by the Grow Africa partnership, in which Yara takes part. Grow Africa is a partnership of the African Union Commission, NEPAD and World Economic Forum that seeks to accelerate private-sector investment for sustainable growth in African agriculture, in line with African countries’ priorities and plans.

Speaking at the Grow Africa Investment Forum, Jørgen Ole Haslestad, Yara President and Chief Executive Officer, said he is pleased about the good progress that has been made but, at the same time, admitted to being quite impatient. “I believe we are about to energize the agricultural sector in Africa, creating sustainable and inclusive growth. However – we are not there yet.”

“Africa’s agricultural transformation is clearly underway. But to achieve its full potential impact on poverty and food security, partners need to renew and redouble their commitment to act in concert,” added Haslestad.

Investments show promise for smallholders

training farmers in Ghana

The first Grow Africa annual report, unveiled during the Forum, shows that the partnership has helped mobilize over USD 3.5 billion in new investment commitments.

The report presents the ways in which investment commitments have been put into action with more than USD 60 million invested in activities that incorporate smallholder farmers into commercial, market-based activities and almost 800,000 smallholders reached with a mix of training and service provision. 

“Last year close to 100 investment commitments were made by private sector companies under the respective frameworks of the Grow Africa partnership and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. These were framed to support African-led, country specific strategies for agricultural growth. In less than one year, all commitments have seen definite progress, and 40% of these have progressed to an actual investment phase on the ground,” said Yara´s President and CEO.

However, partners agree that the implementation is slowed by constraints such as: regulatory and policy barriers; government capacity to respond quickly; access to capital for domestic companies and smallholders; and slow dissemination of innovative financing.

“From a private sector perspective we face policy and regulatory issues on the ground, which are obstacles for rapid implementation. Examples include import and export costs, red tape particularly hampering regional market development and clarity on land tenure issues,” explained Haslestad.

“At the global level I find clear evidence of strong leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit. However, another imperative is to bring this constructive and problem-solving attitude down right through the respective organizations and link it to innovation taking place on the ground. Only with a complete top to bottom, solution oriented approach will we ensure that the necessary transformation takes place,” added Haslestad.

Yara´s President and CEO stressed that slow dissemination of innovative financing is another reason for his impatience, pointing to the experiences learnt in the Agricultural Growth Corridors.

“We see examples of successful intervention in the Beira corridor in Mozambique. Meanwhile, in Tanzania partners have spent years simply on establishing the process for setting up a catalytic fund. The Beira case should be duplicated and multiplied, while the challenges experienced by the partners in Tanzania should be understood and removed to speed up the momentum,” Haslestad added.

“I urge all involved to help establish innovative financing – adapted to the needs at the farm level. This is urgently needed to nurture emerging clusters and farmer collectives, where entrepreneurial farmers and businesses can respond to opportunities,” concluded Haslestad.

“Growth in rural Africa is possible through innovative financing” is the title of Haslestad´s post published on May 10 on the World Economic Forum blog.

Grow Africa Investment Forum

A total of 126 companies participated in the Grow Africa Investment Forum, including 58 African and 60 international companies, plus a further eight from other regions, including South Asia and the Middle East. The Grow Africa Investment Forum was convened as a private event as part of the World Economic Forum on Africa, which took place 8-10 May, in Cape Town.

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