Yara has been actively engaged at the EU-Africa summit taking place in Brussels 31 March – 4 April. “By sharing positive experiences from working in partnerships, we see an opportunity to attract more – and more aligned – investments into African agriculture,” says Yara’s CEO Jørgen Ole Haslestad.
Focus on Sub-Saharan agriculture
Brussels is the closest we can call a European capital, holding the seat of the three major EU institutions constituting the center for European policy development. Last week, however, the scope of talks here was broader than the boundaries of today’s Union. The EU-Africa summit placed the relationship between the two continents firmly on the agenda. One of the important topics up for discussion was the agriculture sector. which has seen impressive improvements of productivity over the past few decades, though the Sub-Saharan African agricultural sector still performs very poorly. In parallel, food insecurity remains an endemic issue.
“Over the past five years we have seen a positive development, such as the African-led Grow Africa partnership which has triggered USD 5 billion investments from the private sector,” says Haslestad.
While Africa has the world’s highest prevalence of hunger and malnutrition, it also holds the greatest potential in terms of increasing yields.
“The farmers are there, the land is there and the market is growing. From this positive starting point, development of supporting infrastructure is needed to improve yields. Investments, engagement and collaboration is vital,” says Haslestad.
Unlocking value chains
With African agriculture applying about 1/10 of the global average amount of fertilizers, this is a market set to grow. But neither Yara’s market nor food supply from African farmers will improve unless the farmers can profit from investing into increased productivity.
“By pooling resources and collaborating, we can unlock the value chains. Importantly, both small and large scale farming must be seen as a business to attract youth. The young generation is looking for opportunities, and agriculture has to become more attractive,” says Haslestad.
Haslestad and his colleague Sean de Cleene, SVP Strategy & Business Development in Yara, took part in a total of four high level panels and events during the week. They promoted partnerships as a necessary way forward to trigger the transformation needed in rural Africa.
EU and AU Commissioners, Heads of State and senior representatives both from the private sector and UN agencies took part in the events, discussing infrastructure investment, access to quality inputs, knowledge and finance.