By Foster Obi
National Action Committee on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) recently held a virtual workshop on Agriculture and Agribusiness. The workshop brought together notable professionals in the agricultural sector to discuss sustainable solutions to the challenges of food security and trade in Nigeria and Africa.
AfCFTA was created to expand intra-African trade and enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise levels by taking advantage of opportunities for scale production, continental market access, and better reallocation of resources. The National Action Committee on AfCFTA was set up to develop Nigeria’s strategy and mobilize all relevant public and private sector actors to implement interventions that will prepare Nigerian businesses for the AfCFTA.
Agriculture is a priority sector in Africa, being a key driver for economic diversification. In Nigeria, agriculture remains the largest employer of labor, providing jobs for one-third of the population. “In the first quarter of 2020, agriculture contributed 21.69% of Nigeria’s GDP,” said Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Smallholder farmers account for 60–70% of production, and the program plans to provide mechanization services to these farmers for improved production, which will, in turn, improve the country’s economy.
In charting a way forward for the nation, the professionals discussed limiting factors in agriculture and trade in Nigeria. Toda Atsuko, representing Dr Adesina Akinwumi, President of African Development Bank (AfDB), identified some of the challenges limiting Africa’s agriculture from meeting up with its growing population, including low agricultural productivity and high cost of production. “Intra-African trade is growing but dominated by Southern and Eastern Africa; Nigeria needs to join in,” she said. Atsuko also mentioned that half of African trade is dominated by processed foods.
Kwesi Atta-Krah, IITA Director of Advocacy and Country Alignment, stated that Africa needs to find ways to increase agricultural production, fair trade, and investment. “Transformation must begin from the mind, with us seeing agriculture as a business and job creation area,” he said.
Using IITA as an example, Atta-Krah explained that agriculture should not only be research-based but should also involve delivery. “Using a model of research mobilization to agribusiness, IITA has been providing jobs, especially for youth in agriculture through the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) program, Young Africa Works (YAW) in partnership with MasterCard, and the Start Them Early Program (STEP).“
Discussing the opportunities available in agriculture for Nigeria and Africa at large, and how to leverage them to scale production and trade, Otunba Adebayo Adeniyi, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, mentioned that Nigeria is at an advantage because its market is a target for all countries of Africa, being the largest economy in the Continent. HE Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Governor of Kebbi State and Vice Chairman of the Food Security Council, mentioned that agriculture could be used to seal the free-trade agreement in Africa, since it is a continent with many food-insecure people.
Aside from general farming, some specific aspects of agriculture were analyzed, including poultry and fishery. Implementation of the conclusions drawn from these discussions will result in an agricultural revolution that will strengthen security, improve skills of farmers and the economy, as well as increase mechanized agriculture across Nigeria.