Earlier this month, Agriculture for Impact participated in a one-day workshop, hosted by the European Commission in Brussels, focusing on the opportunities and challenges for European agribusiness in Africa.
As the workshop revealed, many opportunities exist to form win-win relationships for increasing agricultural production and nutrition more sustainably – in short, producing more and better quality from less.
The potential of African agriculture is large. The continent is estimated to have 25% of the world’s total arable land, yet it produces only 10% of total food and 75% of its soils are degraded. By 2050, its population is expected to have almost doubled to close to two billion and with it food demand, yet current production systems would only be able to handle 13% of this total.
The reasons for this untapped potential are myriad with various workshop sessions highlighting the need for more modern farming techniques, better access to credit and market information, lack of storage and transport infrastructure and more smallholder-inclusive models.
To address any of these challenges at scale, the role of markets in tackling food insecurity and malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa is central.
In his opening remarks, Dacian Ciolos, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development at the European Commission, stressed the need for the private and public sectors to work to complement each other’s efforts even more. “Africa is at the heart of the EU’s strategic partnerships,” he said. “Perhaps the EU has not prioritised the private sector sufficiently, but we are learning how to do that better.”
Finding the right balance between private investment and public aid and between local relevance yet scaled-up delivery is not easy and requires strong leadership and enabling policies – in other words, to focus on why markets are formed and how they are governed.
Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development and Cooperation at the European Commission, called for a “sustainable shift from subsistence agriculture to a productive agricultural industry allowing farmers to take part in the market economy.” It must be suitable for smallholders and especially for women farmers.
The workshop showed how European agribusiness can play a role in shaping African agriculture by promoting research, innovation and trade as well as governance, transparency and accountability.