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Africa can feed the world, says agriculture council

Nov 30 2016 19:19
Carin Smith

Cape Town - Africa has the potential to feed its inhabitants and the rest of the world, Ben Leyka, executive director at the African Agri Council said at the first African Agri Investment Indaba in Cape Town.

"Africa will always have its potential, so it is up to stakeholders, including government and the private sector, to bring out that potential," said Leyka.

To him, the Indaba has created a platform to bring all stakeholders together to discuss what influences investors' decisions - especially regarding agriculture in Africa.

Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro (the Western Cape's Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion Agency,) said the Indaba is not a talk shop.

"We truly want to see real conversation taking place. We want to see business taking place on this platform," said Harris.

"Not many people realise that eight out of the top ten export products from Western Cape are agricultural products. The agricultural sector is critical for SA. About 900 000 people are employed in the primary agriculture sector in SA."

To him agriculture is a bit like the proverbial canary in a mine. The agriculture sector is sensitive to environmental issues such as water and the impact of the drought, but it is also sensitive to politics and land issues, he explained.

"If you get agriculture wrong, the downside could be famine, but if you get it right it can also be an eagle that pulls your economy to growth."

READ: SA agriculture key player in Africa - minister

Agriculture exports are huge earners of foreign exchange and it is also labour intensive. That is why it can be an engine for growth, despite downside risks, Harris explained.

"One in five jobs in the Western Cape relate to agriculture or the agri processing sector. That is why it is very important to get policies right to get the industry growing," said Harris.

Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, said for investment to take place in the agri-space in Africa there must be an ecosystem and the right policy environment must be in place.

"We must manage this agricultural asset for Africa. The approach must be devised by Africa for Africa to create opportunity for the rest of Africa in the value chain," said Winde.

"It is not just about land and agriculture space, but about the whole value chain and what comes with it. Let's make sure we have a commitment to develop this Indaba platform to be seen as creating massive opportunity for Africa as well as food security. This is the role Africa has to play in world."

The challenge of skills development is one that has to be addressed, in Winde's view, and enabling environments must be created.

"Already one in five of the top 500 companies in the world have a footprint or some sort of operation in Africa. Africa is the continent of massive opportunity, but challenges include skilling its young population correctly to use that opportunity," said Winde.

"We are also looking at creating an enabling environment for exports of halaal products."

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

tim harris  |  alan winde  |  agribusiness  |  agriculture
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