By Erick Akasa
Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the Equatorial Guinea’s President urged African countries to invest heavily in their agricultural sector to decrease their dependence on the West, ensure food security, and significantly reduce hunger in their countries. He made his remarks at the closing session of the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union (AU).
“Africa should reorient itself to ensure its independence and security of African states through the safe production of its own consumer goods, Africa cannot be content to continue with the current dependence on the economies of the developed world,” Obiang said.
According to Obiang, the development of agriculture can greatly reduce dependence, “Africa can ensure food security and significantly reduce hunger in our countries. Africa should heavily invest in agricultural development to transform itself in order to accelerate growth to increase production and productivity,” he said.
“Africa is sailing upstream against a dependency that prevents them from moving toward sustainable development. Africa should rethink its relationship with the developed world to reduce as far as possible the gap that prevents access to development,” he added.
President Obiang proposed to the African Union the establishment of a program that focuses on the organization and exploitation of markets to promote trade and food security and to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty. This will also reinforce the fight against climate change and agriculture.
He said that Equatorial Guinea is already investing in its agricultural sector. “As part of our diversification plan, Equatorial Guinea currently focuses on [agricultural] production to achieve these goals. It is imperative to ensure the security and stability of our states, since agriculture is the most vulnerable sector in times of instability, war and terrorism.” said Obiang.
“It’s no coincidence that this session focuses on the issue of agriculture and food security in Africa. We cannot talk about the development of Africa if there is no agricultural development to ensure food security and avoid lifelong dependence on imports of consumer products.”
He noted that Africa counts on the support of organizations focused on agriculture and ways to improve the sector, and urged continued support for those organizations.
“The African Union must recognize and financially support the structures of non-governmental organizations, businesses and institutions created in Africa to support agriculture, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).”
“The last decade has marked considerable advancements of the African states. Many of them aspire to economic emergence in the near future. Nonetheless, the continent continues to be a victim of endemic diseases and insecurity that require a unified solution of the states.”
Obiang said it was a great honor for Equatorial Guinea to host the 23rd African Union Summit at “a moment that is crucial for the world nations as they struggle to find solutions to economic crises, security, hunger and poverty, and climate change that affect the world.” He said, “The participation of the heads of state and numerous guests in this summit shows the interest and commitment that Africa and its partners have to find solutions to current issues.”
As the Summit comes to an end, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in collaboration with the African Union, African development Bank and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization among other organizations will in September convene the African Green Revolution Forum in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to critically examine the Malabo decisions.
According to Jane Karuku president AGRA, Close to 1,000 leaders of governments, farmer organizations, and international and African agri-businesses will converge on Addis Ababa to generate strategies to assist governments in implementing their new Declaration and Programme of Action.
“We must keep in mind that ten years ago African Union member states promised to invest ten percent of national budgets in agriculture. Several countries that significantly increased their agricultural investments—such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Rwanda—experienced tremendous progress, not just in agriculture, but also in economic growth across their economies.
While significant challenges remain, since the mid-1990s, their investments in agriculture have coincided with major reductions in the percentage of people living in extreme poverty: Ethiopia by 49 percent; Ghana by 44 percent; and Burkina Faso by 37 percent,” said Jane Karuku.
According to Ms. Karuku, key reason agriculture is such a powerful engine for economic progress is that there is an entrepreneurial spirit among resource-poor farmers in Africa that can be tapped to simultaneously increase food security, raise our standard of living, and even address gender disparities.
“Up to 80 percent of the food eaten in Africa is produced by smallholder farmers people who tend crops and raise livestock on less than a hectare of land—and most of them are women. At the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), every day brings powerful evidence that these farmers hold the key to sustainable and equitable growth in Africa. They have never had a proper chance to show their true colors. The time to give them that chance in now – as Africa reaffirms its commitments to agricultural development,” she said.
Ms. Karuku said that, governments can be the instrumental in realizing the potential of Africa’s smallholder farmers by investing in research to develop new, higher-yielding crop varieties; in extension services to deliver the fruits of agriculture research to farmers’ fields; and in transportation and other infrastructure to develop markets for African agricultural products that will allow poor farmers to profit from their hard work.
“Governments also can cultivate a policy environment that will encourage private sector investments in locally-owned agriculture businesses, such as seed companies and farm supply stores to serve our very capable but very neglected farmers. There are abundant examples across Africa that this model works—governments doing what they do best, the private sector playing to its strengths—with the end result that food production increases, incomes rise, and poverty declines,”Karuku said.